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Geron Settles Suit on Embryo Stem Use

Biotechnology: A new licensing agreement gives the company exclusive rights to three cell types.

January 10, 2002|From Bloomberg News

Geron Corp. said it confirmed its right to use stem cells derived from human embryos for some commercial products, settling a lawsuit filed by a university foundation.

The biotechnology company and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation said they signed a new licensing agreement to develop commercial uses for some stem cell types for which President Bush agreed to provide federal research funds. The foundation said the new agreement allows "wide public access to Wisconsin's stem cell lines."

The new agreement gives Geron exclusive rights to develop products from nerve, heart and pancreatic cell types and a nonexclusive right to develop products from blood, bone and cartilage types.

"Geron has the rights we need to pursue our product development strategies, which are therapies for neurological disorders, heart disease and diabetes--these are large markets and our top priorities," Geron Chief Executive Thomas B. Okarma said in a statement.

Menlo Park, Calif.-based Geron plans to develop products based on the other three cell types for use in treating arthritis and osteoporosis and in transfusion medicine, Okarma said.

The foundation had sought to bar Geron from exercising exclusive rights to all six cell types, and accused the company of refusing to sign agreements with companies or researchers.

Geron shares fell 26 cents to $8.68 on Nasdaq. They've fallen by more than a third since the suit was announced Aug. 14.

Research rights will be given to other academic and government researchers, as long as they pay a $5,000 administrative fee, said foundation spokesman Andy Cohn. If the researchers want to develop products, licenses must be sought from Geron on the blood, bone or cartilage types or from the foundation for other cell types not included in the Geron licensing agreement, Cohn said.

Derived from days-old embryos, stem cells are believed to hold the key to cures for such diseases as diabetes, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's. Because they are blank, they can develop into just about any cell made by the human body.

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