Opponents are looking to the next fight. Stem cell researcher Jeanne Loring of Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, California, who believes WARF patents are unjustified and obstruct research, says she is "surprised" at the PTO ruling. The groups that brought the complaint plan to appeal the 2006 patent on methodology to PTO's Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences. (Rulings are final on the other two.) "We have new information" on scientific work preceding Thomson's findings that will bolster the case, says Loring.
John Simpson of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights in Santa Monica, California, one of the groups that brought the complaint, says that in any event, "we think we've already won a major victory with these patent challenges." He points out that in the past year, WARF has eased up on proprietary claims in two areas: It no longer demands license fees from companies that do university-based research with its cells, and it revised its patent claims to apply only to ES cells derived from fertilized embryos.
This latter concession is crucial as the stem cell community moves wholesale into a new area: cultivation of so-called induced pluripotent stem cells, which are generated without eggs or embryos.
Holden does not mention that the induced pluripotent stem cells themselves are the subject of filed patent applications.