19 Oct Donley resigns as WiCell director
Madison, Wis. – Just six weeks after taking the helm at the WiCell Research Institute, Beth Donley has resigned to pursue opportunities in the private sector, the organization announced.
Donley, who was serving as WiCell’s executive director and has served as general counsel to WiCell’s parent, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, will pursue work in the high-tech and biotechnology industries.
Donley, who joined WARF in 1998, indicated that she would remain in Greater Madison. “WARF provided me with a unique opportunity to play a role in the growth and evolution of major scientific and development breakthroughs in stem cell and other biotechnological research fields,” Donley said in a press release issued by WARF.
“Now, I want to take what I have learned to the next level and have concluded that, for me, that next level lies in the dynamic private, for-profit community that is making Dane County and the Greater Madison area its home.”
In the same release, Carl Gulbrandsen, managing director of WARF, called Donley an important contributor to WARF over the past eight years. She joined the organization the same year that University of Wisconsin-Madison stem cell researcher James Thomson became the first scientist to isolate human embryonic stem cells.
“We will miss her energy, strategic thinking, and her drive to improve WARF and WiCell,” Gulbrandsen said. “She has an impressive range of legal, scientific, business, and leadership skills, and all of us at WARF look forward to the excellent contribution she will make to Madison’s expanding for-profit sector.”
Embroiled in stem cell controversy
Prior to becoming executive director of WiCell, Donley led litigation and patent-drafting efforts as the institute’s general counsel. She also served as general counsel for WARF, the UW-Madison licensing arm which holds three stem cell patents that now are under review by the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Donley made headlines earlier this year when, speaking at a conference in San Francisco, she asserted that WARF would demand license fees and payment on all embryonic stem cell research funded under Proposition 71, a ballot initiative approved by California voters.
WARF’s stance and the belief that its stem cell patents are overly broad led to a legal challenge to the patents by the California-based Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights and the Public Patent Foundation. In early October, the Patent and Trademark Office granted their request for a review.
At this point, it is not known whether WiCell will conduct a national search for Donley’s successor. Andy Cohn, government and public relations manager for WARF, said the organization would not comment beyond the press release.
During her tenure, Donley also served as managing director of WiSys, the technology transfer organization for the University of Wisconsin System, and as director of business development for WiCell.
Established in 1999, WiCell conducts and supports stem cell research in collaboration with UW-Madison scientists, and it provides training for outside researchers. WiCell also houses the nation’s only stem cell bank, and it has 13 of the 21 stem cell lines available on the federal registry. The stem cell bank was founded to obtain, characterize, and distribute the 21 lines approved for federally funded research.
• Nation’s only stem cell bank will receive UC-San Francisco cell line
• WiCell, California firm agree to distribute stem cell lines derived with new technique
• Donley has growth plans for stem cell bank
• Request to re-examine WARF stem cell patents escalates war of words