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.
"Forty lines is a lot of stuff to work with," said Dr. Paul Berg of Stanford University. "It seems a little premature to wring our hands when we haven't had a look or attempted to work with the existing stem cell lines."
Other U.S. labs on the NIH list are the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, owner of five cell lines; BresaGen Inc. of Athens, Ga., with four cell lines; and UC San Francisco, with two lines.
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The 10 Labs That Qualify
Companies and research laboratories with stem cell lines:
Name Location No. of lines BresaGen Inc. Athens, Ga. 4 CyThera Inc. San Diego 9 Goteborg University Goteborg, Sweden 19 Karolinska Institute Stockholm 5 Monash University Australia 6 Nat. Center for
Biological Sciences Bangalore, India 3 Reliance Life Sciences Mumbai, India 7 Technion-Israel Institute of Tech. Haifa, Israel 4 UC San Francisco San Francisco 2 Wis. Alumni Research Foundation Madison, Wis. 5
Source: National Institutes of Health