Sunday, February 11, 2007

ACT acquires patents of Infigen related to SCNT

Advanced Cell Technology [ACT], active in the stem cell business, announced on 9 Feb 07 that it has acquired the intellectual property assets of its former competitor Infigen, Inc. relating to somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), parthenogenesis, and other related technologies.

26 issued patents and numerous pending patent applications were obtained for a combination of cash and shares of common stock.

William M. Caldwell, IV, Chief Executive Officer of Advanced Cell Technology: "This tactical acquisition is a part of our long-term plan to become one of the leading companies in the field of regenerative medicine. We intend to use these technologies to further our product development and use the exclusive rights under these patents to protect the company and, as appropriate, leverage these patents through licensing transactions with potential strategic partners." [from huliq]

Although this move is to boost ACT's intellectual property position in the drive towards commercialization of embryonic stem cell and SCNT technology, IPBiz notes human SCNT has shown little progress in the year since Hwang Woo Suk's research in the area was shown to be fraudulent.

The move also shows some of the hypocrisy manifested in the complaints about WARF's patents in the embryonic stem cell area. At the same time that one has an op-ed by Harvard's Reeve in the Washington Post suggesting that WARF's patents will impede innovation, ACT (now a California company expected to benefit from CIRM funding) is acquiring patents to expand its IP interest in SCNT. It's a strange, strange world. Did FOUR JACKS AND A JILL have Proposition 71 in mind when they wrote:

To tie up all your problems and make them look neat
And then to sell them to the people in the street


You taught me all the things the way you'd like them to be
But I'd like to see if other people agree

It's all very int'resting the way you disguise
But I'd like to see the world through my own eyes


IPBiz noted two relevant comments on californiastemcellreport:

-->Of a Sacramento Bee editorial on 12 Feb 07: The Bee editorial had received two comments from readers as of this morning. Both were generally opposed to ESC research. One asked, "Can we do a recall on ballot initiatives."

-->The Bee editorial expressed an interesting truth in stating: While it is momentous that California is now on the leading edge of financing embryonic stem cell research, the institute still hasn't adopted a transparent procedure for policing potential conflicts. [IPBiz notes, with interest, that the Bee placed California on the leading edge of "financing," i.e., spending taxpayers money. All too true.]


An attempt to post the following comment at californiastemcellreport was made on 13 Feb 07:

In the scientific area, people have understood that those most likely to have the best understanding of a proposal are those who are in some sense "competitors" of the proposer.

There can be a conflict of interest in a bad sense, such that the reviewer turns down the proposal, to harm the competitor. The misuse of confidential information in a proposal (whether advertent or inadvertent) has been documented (and was even the subject of a plot line on Law & Order ten years ago ["Big Bang" episode on proton lifetime; see
archives/2004_01_09_academicgame_archive.html and my article on "scientific doormen" at pages 34-35 of the January 1999 issue of Intellectual Property Today, available LEXIS]).

If one makes the review publicly accessible, there may be a tendency by the reviewer to be less than candid. Further, there is a separate conflict of interest issue, in that reviewers may approve a proposal [even a bad one] to make the field grow.

In an ideal world, reviews would not be anonymous, reviewers would be objective in their comments, and neither the reviewer nor the reviewee would fear reprisals. One notes that federal funding agencies still use non-disclosed reviewers.

Lawrence B. Ebert
13 Feb. 07


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