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Historic Victorian Stem Cell Agreement with University of California, San Diego

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The Melbourne-based Australian Stem Cell Centre and Monash University have forged a historic agreement with the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) in what is a major commitment towards stem cell research.

Speaking from BIO2006, the Premier, Steve Bracks, said the State of Victoria and UCSD are creating a powerful new international collaboration in stem cell research.

"This historic initiative will cement Victoria as a global leader in stem cell research and allow our leading stem cell researchers to work alongside their Californian counterparts," Mr. Bracks said.

"California is fast becoming the hub of stem cell research in the northern hemisphere and the memorandum of understanding between the UCSD, Australian Stem Cell Centre and Monash University will result in two of the world's leading centres working together on future projects and discoveries."

Mr. Bracks said under the agreement both centres will have access to research facilities and staff as well as undertake a regular exchange program to fast-track research and knowledge transfer.

"All of these arrangements are a giant leap forward for stem cell research," he said.

"Stem cells are of particular significance to researchers because of their ability to self-renew and to develop into any type of specialised cell in the body.

"This research has the potential to drive new discoveries in regenerative medicine, such as treatments to replace damaged tissue or cells, treating diseases with a genetic component such as Parkinson's and cystic fibrosis and testing new drugs."

The Minister for Innovation, John Brumby, also announced stem cell lines developed in Victoria would be distributed across the US.

Mr. Brumby said a three year deal arrangement between the Australian Stem Cell Centre and the US-based life science company, Chemicon would ensure the successful take-up of Victorian-developed biomedical products, including stem cell lines, high quality antibodies and proteins.

"Today's announcement will ensure that products developed in Australia will be distributed into laboratories throughout the world," Mr. Brumby said.

"This agreement places Victoria firmly as a global leader in this revolutionary field of regenerative medicine."

The move follows recent announcements by the Victorian Government to make two embryonic stem cell lines, Mel-1 and Mel-2, available to researchers free of commercial and intellectual property (IP) constraints.

"Internationally more than 70 stem cell lines exist for research but fewer than 20 lines are thought to be useable, and until now, their use has been limited by commercial restraints," he said.

"We know that overly restrictive IP can arrest good science, so to have high quality tools such as these cell lines, proteins and antibodies, creates wonderful opportunities for scientists in their efforts to make new discoveries."

Chemicon was chosen as a partner for the Melbourne-based Australian Stem Cell Centre because of its well-established global marketing and distribution capabilities.

Under the three-year deal, it will have exclusive distribution rights in the United States and non-exclusive distribution for the rest of the world.

Chemicon will contribute funds, products and technical expertise to the new stem cell training program recently launched by the Australian Stem Cell Centre.

In return, the Australian Stem Cell Centre will become a beta-testing site for new products developed by Chemicon and their partners.

The stem cell lines will continue to be available to Australian scientists free of IP constraints.

The Australian Stem Cell Centre, which has a growing antibody discovery and development program at its laboratories, has worked in collaboration with the Centre for Green Chemistry at Monash University to develop proteins for specific use in stem cell research.