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Stem Cell Information

December 6, 2005, Summary

NIH Stem Cell Task Force

Members Present:

James Battey, NIDCD (Chair); Story Landis, NINDS (Vice-Co Chair); L. Tony Beck, NCRR; Mark Rohrbaugh, OD/OTT; Richard Tasca, NICHD; John Thomas, NHLBI (via conference call); Elizabeth Wilder, NIDDK; Marion Zatz, NIGMS

Other Participants:

Laura Cole, NIDCD; Donald Fink, FDA/CBER; Jack Harding, NCRR; Tom Johnson, OD/OSP; Lisa Montney, NIDCD; David Owens, NINDS (via conference call); Anne White-Olson, NIDCD; Baldwin Wong, NIDCD

I. Welcome

Dr. Battey welcomed the participants to the 14th meeting of the Task Force.

II. Approval of Meeting Minutes

The Task Force approved the text of the September 20, 2005 meeting minutes, which will be posted on the NIH Stem Cell website at

III. Update on the National Stem Cell Bank—Dr. Harding

Dr. Harding announced that NCRR has awarded a contract in September 2005 to support the National Stem Cell Bank. The contract was awarded to WiCell Research Institute, a non-profit organization headquartered on the campus of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. One function of the Bank is to distribute human embryonic stem cell (hESC) lines that are eligible for federal research funding. WiCell reports to currently have 11 hESC lines (5 lines from WiCell and 6 from ES Cell International) available for distribution under the Bank, and negotiations with other providers of hESC that are eligible for federal funding (BresaGen, Cellartis, MizMedi, Technion and UCSF) are ongoing. WiCell has been processing requests for eligible hESC lines under the auspices of the Bank since October 1, 2005. Updates on the number of WiCell and ESI lines shipped will be provided, but are not yet available. Currently, scientists from non-profit institutions can purchase eligible hESC lines from the Bank at $500 per line (rather than $5,000 per line from the providers on the NIH Stem Cell Registry) and use the original WiCell material transfer agreement (MTA). WiCell is considering revising its MTA in relation to hESC lines purchased through the Bank, and NIH will need to approve the revised version. WiCell is also designing a new website, including a section dedicated to the National Stem Cell Bank. Dr. Harding is currently inviting scientists to serve on the Bank's advisory board. It will consist of approximately 8 scientists, including representatives from the U.K. Stem Cell Bank and the Australian National Stem Cell Centre. A representative from the NIH Stem Cell Characterization Unit has also been invited. The first meeting of the Bank's advisory board will probably be held in conjunction with the Keystone Stem Cell Symposium in March 27–April 1, 2006, in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada.

The Task Force agreed that if the Bank distributed cells at a reduced cost than the current costs from the other hESC providers, it would be a significant boost for the stem cell research community. The Task Force suggested that NIH Stem Cell website announce that the Bank is operational and making cells available to non-profit institutions at $500 per line.

In addition, the Task Force discussed whether the Bank would distribute eligible hESC lines which have been genetically modified, whether scientists can share cells obtained from the Bank, and whether scientists from for-profit organizations can order cells from the Bank. Dr. Harding reported that discussion with WiCell are still underway on the logistics of operating the Bank, and he and Dr. Rohrbaugh will be in contact with WiCell on these issues as well as questions on intellectual property.

IV. Update on hESC T15 Short-Term Courses—Dr. Thomas

Dr. Thomas announced that NIH conducted a review on November 2005 of T15 grant applications submitted to conduct short-term hESC culturing courses. He updated the Task Force on the status of the review and asked for input on which courses to fund based on the application scores, available NIH funds, geographic location of the applicants, and number of courses needed. Dr. Thomas will take the Task Force's recommendation to the NHLBI Advisory Council, which will make the final funding decision on the applications in February 2006.

V. Identification of Issues for Task Force Consideration—All Participants

The Task Force discussed whether there was a need for NIH to develop initiatives for small grants that would enable scientists to get preliminary data on hESCs so they are better prepared for submitting an R01 application. The Task Force determined that since most ICs have a small grant program and since the number of investigator-initiated grant applications using hESC is increasing, an initiative specific for small grant applications that involve hESCs is probably not needed.

Dr. Zatz announced that NIGMS has discontinued its hESCs administrative supplement program since the institute is putting more emphasis on stem cell centers. She announced that NIGMS funded 3 new P20 Stem Cell Exploratory Centers for a period of 3 years beginning in August, 2005, and has 3 other P20 centers that still have 2 more years of funding. The new P20 centers are at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Mount Sinai School of Medicine in NYC, and at the Burnham Institute in La Jolla, California.

The Task Force also discussed whether NIH should sponsor another NIH Stem Cell Symposium, especially with the Stem Cell Bank and the Centers of Excellence awarded. Participants agreed that it would be better to decide about the symposium later into the fiscal year, and this topic should be added as an agenda item for discussion at the next Task Force meeting.

VI. Adjournment

The date for the next meeting of the NIH Stem Cell Task Force is still being determined. The meeting adjourned at 10:10 a.m.

If you have questions about the Task Force, please contact:

Science Policy and Planning Branch
National Institute on Deafness
and Other Communication Disorders, NIH
Bethesda, MD 20892
Phone: (301) 402-2313
Fax: (301) 402-2265