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Jamie Thomson to run California research lab

Madison, Wis. - The University of Wisconsin-Madison professor who has been called the “father of stem cell research” has reportedly agreed to operate a research lab as an adjunct professor at the University of California-Santa Barbara.

The Santa Barbara Independent is reporting that Thomson, who remains a tenured faculty member at UW-Madison, will be in Santa Barbara about one month out of the year and lead an interdisciplinary team of four postdoctoral researchers.

The Independent described the limited appointment as a coup for UC-Santa Barbara's fledgling stem-cell program, which recently received $1.2 million in training grants for stem cell research by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. The publication also noted that Thomson has been working on an informal basis with USCB researchers, and has been impressed with the university's approach to multidisciplinary collaboration.

Thomson has been called the father of stem cell research because in 1998, he discovered a method of isolating human stem cells in embryos. Embryonic stem cells are considered excellent research tools because they can become virtually any type of cell in the human body.

Thomson and his colleagues at UW-Madison's WiCell Research Institute also have developed two new lines of stem cells fed through a culture medium free of animal proteins. It is considered a scientific breakthrough because it shows that stem cell lines can be grown successfully without animal contamination, and because it moves stem-cell research closer to clinical trials.
Three stem cell inventions eventually were patented, and have become embroiled in a patent challenge before the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Ironically, it is a California consumer watchdog group, the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, that has filed the challenge.

The FTCR emerged victorious in the first round, as the patent office upheld its patent challenge, and now the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, which holds the patents, will have an opportunity to make its case.

Thomson has also become a stem cell entrepreneur in Wisconsin, having co-founded Stem Cell Products, Inc., and Cellular Dynamics International.

Stem Cell Products will use $1 million in state funding for its development of processes to make blood products from human embryonic stem cells. The company intends to develop techniques to permit industrial-scale manufacturing of embryonic stem cell-derived blood products for use in military hospitals and other human clinical settings.

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