AMHERST, Mass. - The University of Massachusetts has been issued a patent by the United States Patent and Trademark Office for the biotechnology techniques that produced cloned, transgenic cattle in January 1998. The patent covers an improved method of cloning non-human mammals using nuclear transfer technology. The technology, which was developed on the Amherst campus in 1995, is exclusively licensed to Advanced Cell Technology (ACT), a Worcester company with University ties. Applications of the technique lie in human therapeutics, including generation of cloned cells for transplantation, and efficient production of medications that could be produced in transgenic animals.
"This technology is particularly valuable because it is a core technology that can be used for many different purposes," said James Robl, a reproductive and developmental biologist, and professor of veterinary and animal sciences at UMass, who is one of the inventors. "This method allows us to produce genetically identical animals for agriculture, and genetically modified animals for cells, proteins, tissues and organs for human therapeutics."
"This pioneering step in biotechnology is a prime example of the University’s mission," said Chancellor David K. Scott. "It is a perfect example of the modern research land-grant university in action, pursuing forefront research with enormous benefit to society. The University is proud of Professor Robl and his colleagues for their far-reaching work."
"This is one of the most important pieces of research ever to emerge from one of our campus laboratories at the University," said Interim Vice Chancellor for Research Frederick W. Byron Jr. "The potential benefits of this technology for human health and other areas are enormous."
The technology enables scientists to create identical cells and animals either with or without genetic modifications. The technique was first announced by UMass and ACT with the birth of George and Charlie, the first cloned transgenic cattle produced from genetically altered bovine somatic (body) cells. Details of the technique were published in the May 22, 1998 issue of the journal, Science. Unlike other cloning methods, which rely on nuclear transfer using germ line embryonic cells or somatic cells in a quiescent, or inactive state, this method covers transfer of somatic cells during any phase of the cell cycle except quiescence.
The technology involves an improved method of nuclear transfer involving the transplantation of differentiated somatic cells into an oocyte, or egg cell, from which the nucleus has been removed. Transfers are performed between same-species, non-human mammalian cell and egg donors.
This technology applies to embryonic stem cell technology because nuclear transfer is a way of genetically modifying embryos that can then produce embryonic stem cells.
Inventors on the patent, #8,781,752, are Robl; Jose B. Cibelli, who earned his doctoral degree at UMass and now works at ACT; Paul J. Golueke and Steven L. Stice, formerly of UMass; and F. Abel Ponce de Leon, formerly of UMass and now at the University of Minnesota.