Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is.    The Honorable Governor of Texas, George W. Bush

I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, March 14, 2005

More Stemmed Cell Research

The Parties recognize that Wisconsin Materials may be used in the Recipient’s research program to make discoveries of different materials (“Recipient Materials”) which themselves may eventually be the basis of commercial products that benefit public health. Any grant of rights to Wisconsin Materials or Wisconsin Patent Rights that may be needed by a third party for commercialization of Recipient Materials shall be done by a separate written agreement with WiCell permitting such use of Wisconsin Materials or Wisconsin Patent Rights under terms not less favorable than other similar commercial licenses to the extent such rights are available.

What’s all this, then? This is one of numerous articles of agreement in the order form for embryonic stem cells from a non-profit company called WiCell, a distribution arm of Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, or WARF. WARF is the proud owner of several of the most viable stem cell lines in the world as a result of the ground breaking research done at the University by a James Thompson, work done in partnership with Geron Corporation. The University has since learned to regret the rights it greedily sold out to the Geron Corporation and is suing for more control in that one of the first things President Bush did upon gaining office was to limit research to existing stem cell lines, making these little puppies very valuable indeed!

I’m sure they’ll work it out, but in the meantime all therapeutic and commercially viable uses derived from research on any of these cells will require a negotiating session with WARF. If this sounds a little monopolistic to you, be sure you aren’t the only one. Here’s a paragraph from the Duke Law and Technological Review .

The federal government designated the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to negotiate an agreement to allow researchers access to the human embryonic stem cell lines specified under federal research guidelines. The stem cell lines available in the United States are controlled by the WiCell Research Institute and, in part, Geron Corporation. On September 5, 2001, NIH and WiCell signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that granted federally funded researchers access to WiCell’s stem cell lines for basic research purposes only and waived WiCell’s reach-through rights on the resulting discoveries. The MOU does have the clear benefit of enabling important basic research yielding many potential medical benefits. The problem with the MOU is that after basic research, WiCell and Geron can potentially block all or selected commercial and therapeutic development and usages involving WiCell and Geron intellectual property. In essence, the federal government is funding the expanded basic research of two private companies that already have a legal monopoly on a broad set of stem cell products and methods under pre-existing patent rights, while providing no safeguards on the licensing activities of the patent holders.

Thus within 6 months in office did President Bush and the former Governor of Wisconsin, then Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson, effectively grant the University of Wisconsin and its associated corporate interests a very powerful monopoly affecting the development of one of the most promising scientific advancements of all time. Bush’s limitations were at the time seen as a compromise to assuage the fundamentalist objection to such research.

The monetary impact is too staggering to comprehend, and the jostling is near-violent as Bio-Med courtiers of all types queue at the court of WARF, bestowing their gifts upon the University in the expectation of future consideration.

So much wheeling and dealing is going on here that Northwest Airlines has initiated a non-stop service to Washington from this eight hundred miles away city of 200,000; apparently for lesser ranked corporate lawyers that don’t rate private livery.

So our insurance premiums and taxes are being used to fund research which is being used to develop treatments which will paid for by our future premiums and taxes to the entities that offer up the highest bids to the University of Wisconsin (and its no longer welcome benefactor, Geron Corp.)

As always, it gets better.

This is from an article in The Daily Cardinal, a University paper:

In November, the UW System conducted a budget reduction exercise revealing that a 5 percent budget cut, like Doyle projected, could result in enrollment cuts of 7,816 students and layoffs of 968 faculty and staff.

and further down:

Despite the fact that the budget exercise did not anticipate Doyle's restrictions, UW System President Katharine Lyall said in November that she felt enrollment reductions would be inevitable.

It seems that the bottom of the barrel has been exposed, or has it? This from the Wisconsin Technology Network:

Madison, Wis. — Wisconsin should hold on to its advantage in health and life-science research by drawing together $375 million in public and private funding for a new research center on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus, Governor Jim Doyle said on Wednesday.

So while enrollments are to be cut, tuition is experiencing double digit inflation, staff is being axed and our taxes are being increased, WARF is wining and dining Michael J Fox and the Governor is promising a couple hundred million to help build a place where corporations can develop products via grad assistants working for minimum wage with reduced health care benefits. While the University increases the cost we will pay for medical advance by limiting the competitive field we will be paying off the bonds of the “public” contribution to research infrastructure.

Could it be any more expensive? Where there’s a will, there’s a way.


At 3:41 PM, Blogger JD said...

Nice article. I assume you sent that one up to the Madison and Milwaukee papers?


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