Friday, December 22, 2006

Norwegian stem cell company eyes Wis.



Access to scientists working with stem cells and proximity to the WiCell Research Institute attracted a Norwegian biotechnology company to locate in Madison, Gov. Jim Doyle said Friday.

CellCura, Inc., is the fourth stem cell company to start or locate in Wisconsin the past two years, the governor's office said.

Doyle, who made his support of embryonic stem cell research a lynchpin of his successful re-election bid last month, wants Wisconsin to capture 10 percent of the stem cell research market by 2015. In April he directed the state Department of Commerce to spend $5 million to help recruit stem cell researchers like CellCura.

Wisconsin is the birthplace of stem cell research. University of Wisconsin researcher Jamie Thomson first isolated embryonic stem cells in 1998.

About 80 UW scientists are conducting a variety of embryonic stem cell studies, mostly using the five cell lines developed by Thomson and patented by the school's research arm, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.

WiCell is a subsidiary of WARF that does stem cell research and education and is the home of the National Stem Cell Bank.

Doyle's office said Wisconsin currently has 22,000 people working with stem cells which generates $7 billion for the state's economy.

Embryonic stem cell therapies could hold cures for a host of debilitating illnesses such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases.

But the research is divisive because scientists destroy unused embryos from fertility clinics to obtain the stem cells, which are the basic material that give rise to nearly all organs, cells and other body tissues.