MARYLAND – Access for US scientists to human embryonic stem cells appears to be improving thanks to an agreement negotiated earlier this month by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the WiCell Research Institute, Inc., Madison, Wisconsin — a non-profit organization established in October 1999 to advance research in the area of stem cells. The agreement sets out the terms under which researchers can obtain and use the five WiCell cell lines developed before 9 August 2001, which US President George W. Bush has said are ethically acceptable for federally funded research. The need for the agreement is demonstrated by the fact that WiCell is currently receiving 10 to 15 requests for the cell lines every day.

The new agreement specifies that the cells can be used only for non-commercial research and teaching. But the NIH, not WiCell, will retain ownership of any new intellectual property arising from...

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