10 Oct State puts up $1 million for James Thomson's new stem cell startup
Madison, Wis. – Gov. Jim Doyle, as part of a directive to provide $5 million in state funding to companies involved with stem cell research, has announced the state will provide $1 million in state loans and grants to a company co-founded by stem cell researcher James Thomson.
Thomson, the University of Wisconsin-Madison professor who first isolated human embryonic stem cells, is a partner in Stem Cell Products, Inc., and Cellular Dynamics International.
The former company will use the $1 million for its development of processes to make blood products from human embryonic stem cells, and it 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.
In making the announcement at University Research Park, Doyle characterized the work of Stem Cell Products as an example of the potential of embryonic stem cell research, which is controversial because it requires the destruction of embryos, to heal illness and create high-paying jobs.
“As governor, I’ll continue fighting to make sure that top researchers and embryonic stem cell companies are welcomed with open arms and have the strong support of the state,” he said in a prepared statement.
Thomson’s partners in Stem Cell Products include researcher Igor Slukvin, an associate professor in the University of Wisconsin Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, scientist Dong Chen, and Senior Vice President Nick Seay.
Seay indicated the scientific founders have demonstrated that components of the blood system can be produced in a laboratory culture from human embryonic stem cells. The company now is working to scale up the processes “to supply blood products for human health,” he added.
Stem Cell Products will receive $750,000 in loans and a $250,000 grant from the Wisconsin Department of Commerce. The company also has been designated as a qualified new business venture and is therefore eligible for investor tax credits under the Angel Investor and Venture Fund Tax Credit Programs.
Initially, the company will concentrate on process improvements in the manufacture and delivery of embryonic stem cell derived red blood cells and platelets. The latter are in short supply and are needed by the U.S. military for transfusions into soldiers wounded in battle, and the technology being developed by Stem Cell Products could make platelets more available at military hospitals in combat zones.
At the moment, the military flies wounded soldiers from Iraq to hospitals in Germany so they can have access to platelets.
“U.S. soldiers serving in combat could be among the first to benefit,” noted Doyle.
The research on platelet work in Thomson’s lab was funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which is part of the Department of Defense. “We’re still talking to them about future funding,” Seay said.
Luke Punzenberger, press secretary for Republican Mark Green, Doyle’s opponent in the 2006 gubernatorial election, did not comment directly on Stem Cell Products, but he again referenced Green’s proposal for $25 in new state spending on stem cell research that does not involve the destruction of embryos.
“Mark Green has announced a plan to invest $25 million in state funds toward stem cell research in Wisconsin,” Punzenberger said. “He has been a leader in the advancement of medical research, and he will continue to be one as governor.”
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