NIH Press Release
Office of the Director, NIH

Wednesday, September 5, 2001
NIH Communications Office
(301) 496-4461

National Institutes of Health and WiCell Research Institute, Inc.,
Sign Stem Cell Research Agreement

Bethesda, Maryland — The National Institutes of Health and the WiCell Research Institute, Inc., of Madison, Wisconsin, announced today the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for research use of WiCell's existing five human embryonic stem cell lines that meet the criteria articulated by the President in his August 9, 2001, address. This agreement will accelerate a field of research with great potential to improve public health.

Pursuant to this MOU, scientists at the NIH will be able to access these cell lines to explore new avenues of research in this emerging field of technology. In compliance with NIH guidelines for the transfer of research materials, this agreement permits NIH scientists to freely publish the results of their research. The NIH will retain its ownership to any new intellectual property that might arise from the conduct of its research in this area. In addition, the MOU provides a "Simple Letter of Agreement" to govern the transfer of cell lines to individual laboratories with minimal administrative burden.

WiCell will retain commercial rights to its materials and will receive a fee to cover its handling and distribution expenses in supplying these cell lines. Furthermore, WiCell has agreed to make stem cell lines available for use by non-profit institutions that receive grants from the NIH under the same terms and conditions as those available to NIH scientists, provided those institutions enter into a separate written agreement with WiCell.

"We are very pleased with this arrangement for our scientists who are interested in pursuing research on human embryonic stem cells. It will allow science to move forward freely in an important, promising new field. We also expect that the MOU we have signed with WiCell could serve as a model for other research institutions, including those receiving grants from the NIH, in crafting their own agreements with WiCell," said Ruth Kirschstein, M.D., Acting NIH Director.

In discussing the agreement today at a Congressional hearing, Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy G. Thompson said, "I am very happy to announce this agreement between the NIH and WiCell. It is a very important step in beginning the basic research that needs to be done before we can approach treatments and cures. I believe it will open up a world of opportunity for scientists, not only at the NIH, but elsewhere, because it demonstrates a cooperative atmosphere among academia, the private sector, and government that will allow us to move ahead."

"This agreement will help us make these cells readily available to qualified scientists in government and universities where the science can be openly advanced and the technology brought to fruition as quickly as possible," said Carl Gulbrandsen, Managing Director of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF). "WARF is prepared to act on this agreement by making WiCell's cell lines immediately available to the scientific community," he said.

The MOU is available on the NIH web site at *

The WiCell Research Institute, Inc., is a non-profit institution established in 1999 to advance research in the area of stem cells. It has a license from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) to distribute stem cells. WARF, founded in 1925, patents research discoveries at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. The National Institutes of Health (NIH), a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, funded primate research studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, that led to certain discoveries claimed in Wisconsin patent rights.

*Note: This release was updated on March 3, 2005 to reflect a change in the web address for the Wicell Research Institute MOU.