CyThera was founded in January 2000 with the goal of using embryonic stem cells to create insulin-producing tissue for transplantation into diabetics. It has 10 employees. "We kept pretty quiet on purpose, because obviously there was so much controversy around this, and so there was no reason to be in the limelight," said Dr. Lutz B. Giebel, the company's chief operating officer.
Giebel said CyThera expected to distribute its cells widely to other researchers, but within limits. "Obviously, we don't want to enable our competition," he said.
Sens. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) have planned two committee hearings that congressional aides said could lay the groundwork for legislation aimed at broadening Bush's restrictions. Specter and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) have filed legislation that would greatly boost the number of cell lines available for federally funded researchers.
One leading biologist said at least four labs on the NIH list are "very high-class operations" and account for 30 to 40 of the cell lines, enough to ensure that research will advance.