Geron, a US biotechnology company, announced last week that it has patented a process that allows them to 'purify' batches of human embryonic stem cells (ES cells). The patented process would allow scientists to separate useful ES cells from potentially harmful cells and would give Geron an advantage over other companies involved in the search for ES cell derived therapies. Foolowing the announcement, shares in Geron rose by 15 per cent.
Geron is one of a number of biotechnology companies working on turning ES cells into other types of body cell, including heart muscle, blood and nerve cells. The new method for which it has gained a patent involves inserting a 'suicide gene' into ES cells, which would activate if the cell did not develop properly into the type of cell needed for the therapy it was to be used for. David Earp, vice president of intellectual property at Geron, said that the company currently has no plans to license the technique.