Monday, August 28, 2006

More on the coverage of ACT's embryonic stem cell work

Relevant to coverage of the new ACT work on embryonic stem cells:

From Robert George on National Review about the ACT work published in Nature:

First, the study did not involve the removal of one cell from an embryo that then continued to develop. Instead, researchers disaggregated 16 living embryos, killing them all, and took an average of six cells from each. The 91 resulting embryonic cells were then placed near one another in dishes and allowed to divide. Some divided, while others died, and from the cells that divided researchers were able to produce two lines of embryonic stem cells. In other words, the study did virtually nothing to prove the point that Advanced Cell Technology (ACT, the company that carried out the experiments) had argued in the press: that single cells removed from an early embryo and cultured by themselves can produce lines of embryonic stem cells.
[IPBiz: the issue here is cultured by themselves. ACT does claim that in certain cases, a single cell removed from a multicell blastocyst did produce a stem cell line.]

George went on to write:

So far as I am aware, only the Los Angeles Times took note of this little wrinkle in ACT’s heavily publicized tale, but even the Times didn’t pay it much heed. The paper noted: “Although the embryos were destroyed in this experiment, Lanza said it was not necessary to destroy the embryos for the procedure to work.” If it was not necessary, why did his team do it? Certainly they would have had a better story to tell if they hadn’t. In reality, the fact they had to resort to the technique they used, culturing numerous cells from the same embryo near each other on a dish, suggests they tried to use just single cells but failed. In other words, the ACT study did not show it is possible to extract a single cell from an eight-cell embryo and produce a line of stem cells.

[IPBiz note: the LATimes was NOT the only paper to cover this aspect.]

George wrote:

ACT’s scientist-salesmen imprudently dismissed these concerns in the press, and hyped their findings. “There is no rational reason left to oppose this research,” Dr. Robert Lanza, ACT’s vice president told the New York Times. This was mere bravado. It did not, and will not, make serious questions go away. Indeed, the media is now in full retreat from the original story, and reporters are not at all happy with ACT for having sold them a bill of goods.

[IPBiz notes that George did not mention ACT's patent application on this process. George did not mention the criticism by British scientists of the ACT work.]

Relevant to coverage of the IMPACT OF ACT work ON Thomson / WARF patents:

One has to distinguish between invalidity issues and noninfringement issues.

--> The ACT work, which has taken place long after the Thomson work of the 1990's, is NOT prior art to the Thomson work and is NOT going to invalidate the earlier Thomson work.

--> The ACT work may supply an alternate method to make embryonic stem cell lines to that disclosed by Thomson in the 1990's. HOWEVER, Thomson has composition of matter claims in his patents. No evidence has been put forth that ACT's compositions do NOT fall within the scope of Thomson's composition claims. In the absence of such evidence, one notes that the practitioners of the ACT method would have to license from WARF. The discovery of a new method "B" to make composition "Z", wherein there was a previous method "A" to make composition "Z" does NOT evade a composition claim to "Z". If discovery of a new method were to evade a composition claim, think about how valueless pharma composition patents would be. One could avoid Pfizer's LIPITOR composition claim merely by figuring out a different way to make LIPITOR. That isn't the law.


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