A series of projects aimed at advancing the human-health and economic impact of biomanufacturing is already benefiting from a new University of Wisconsin–Madison institute aimed at making the state a Midwestern hub of the ongoing merger of pharmaceuticals, medical devices and cutting-edge tissue engineering. The Forward BIO Institute, announced last month, intends to accelerate UW–Madison’s existing expertise in the next wave of biomedicine. Former SCRMC Co-Director, William Murphy, a professor of biomedical engineering and orthopedics at UW–Madison, directs the Institute.
Su-Chun Zhang, a Waisman Center researcher and UW School of Medicine and Public Health professor of neurology and neuroscience, was the first in the world to craft human brain cells from human embryonic stem (ES) cells, and later from the related induced pluripotent (iPS) cells. In light of the 20th anniversary of James Thomson’s derivation of human ES cells, we had some questions for a founder of stem cell neuroscience
“When Jamie’s work came out, it literally changed the world and how we envision taking what we do from a petri dish to a patient.” – Gordon Keller, senior scientist, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, UHN-Toronto
Art of discovery: A look at the cellular wonders of stem cell research Creating brain and nerve cells to propel drug treatments for disease Research excellence: Stem cell collaboration fuels sustained leadership A starring role …
SCRMC member Su-Chun Zhang, professor of neuroscience, writes: As a researcher studying how brain cells might treat disorders like multiple sclerosis, I first approached Jamie Thomson in the late 1990s because I knew he was experimenting with stem cells from monkeys and I wanted to understand his work. When I learned he had figured out how to derive human embryonic stem cells, we began to collaborate on how to guide human stem cells to brain cells.
SCRMC Director Timothy Kamp writes: When UW-Madison researcher Jamie Thomson discovered human embryonic stem cells in the late 1990s, the university instantly vaulted to the forefront of this exciting new technology. What has been almost as impressive to me is how the university has managed that success and maintained its position as a world leader.
When Jamie Thomson addressed an audience at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery in April, he emphasized the important role that nonhuman primates played in his groundbreaking research. Thomson, who today serves as director of regenerative biology at the Morgridge Institute for Research, explained that he came to UW–Madison in 1991, in large part because it housed the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center. The facility is part of the National Primate Research Centers funded by the National Institutes of Health.
It was December 1998, and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation had just been issued a patent based on Jamie Thomson’s work on embryonic stem cells. This was a continuation of his patent filed in 1995 for deriving stem cells from primates. I got a phone call from the general counsel of the National Institutes of Health, who had been summoned to testify at the U.S. Senate about the patent.
Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), one of the oldest and most successful technology transfer offices in the nation and the designated patent and licensing organization for UW-Madison. It was important to WARF to make stem cell breakthroughs accessible to the world. Over time, they have arranged about 70 licensing agreements and more than 700 patents.
SCRMC members Robert Drape, executive director of WiCell, and Tenneille Ludwig, director of the WiCell Stem Cell Bank, write: WiCell Research Institute has reinvented itself dramatically in the last two decades, yet we remain a mission-driven nonprofit at the epicenter of stem cell research. WiCell’s story began in 1999, shortly after researcher Jamie Thomson made his stem cell breakthrough. The U.S. government had yet to approve the use of federal funds for stem cell research, meaning that the work could not be done on campus without jeopardizing all of UW-Madison’s research grants.