Telomerase Project

Cancer Diagnostics and Therapeutics for everyone

CAMBIA has recently acquired patents and applications covering key aspects of the use of the human telomerase gene, and proteins based on this gene, for diagnostics and therapeutics.

When cloned by two Nobel laureate labs in fierce competition with the then unknown CAMBIA (see comment by Tom Cech attached), human telomerase was viewed as the platform from which a key ‘silver bullet’ for cancer, for diagnostics, for gerontology, even for stem cells, could evolve. CAMBIA’s work, funded by the Monticello Group using materials from the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, was featured on the cover of Human Molecular Genetics (Kilian et al. (1997) “Isolation of a candidate human telomerase catalytic subunit gene, which reveals complex splicing patterns in different cell types”, Human Molecular Genetics 6: 2011-2019).

The patents CAMBIA now owns cover ‘splice variants’ of telomerase associated with dozens of different tumor and cell types, and uses in diagnostics and therapy. The work was thorough and the resulting patents, while not dominating, are major.

As is true for many patented technologies in the field, the patent applications were filed with the intention of licensing the resulting patents to at least one major biotech company to secure added funding for research. However, recognising that rights acquired by one or a few companies can be detrimental to the action of market forces, and that there was an opportunity to use these patents to foment a serious public scrutiny of patent-based pharma-strategy, we decided to pursue alternative options.

We determined that simply putting them into the public domain would not effect any change in the status quo. With medical research, diagnostics and drug development now largely captured within the private sector, where social equity is not necessarily the most important consideration, releasing these patents would have little effect on established practice.

Instead, we are now providing licenses to these patented technologies under the principles of ‘open source’, as described at bios license.

Cancer is a disease that affects rich and poor alike, even though only the wealthy or well insured can pay the high prices of diagnostics and therapeutics.

We would like to use these patents not only to provide the technology to all those who can improve it and develop products from it that would be widely accessible, but as a publicly visible means of drawing attention to the extraordinary opportunities of collective action on shared research priorities (see commentary by Judy Foreman, “Telomerase – A Promising Cancer Drug Stuck in Patent Hell?”, attached as a pdf to this page).

What is available in this project?

hTERT encodes the protein component of human telomerase, an enzyme that is important in cell division, cell aging and cell proliferation control (implicated in cancer and stem cell research), as described in Kilian et al. (1997) “Isolation of a candidate human telomerase catalytic subunit gene, which reveals complex splicing patterns in different cell types”, Human Molecular Genetics, 6: 2011-2019. This gene and its splice variants were isolated and described in work at CAMBIA funded by the Monticello Group using materials from the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.

Licenses for the following patents and patent applications for Vertebrate Telomerase and Uses Thereof are available to all who agree to the terms of a BiOS license (see below): US Patent 6,916,642, US Patent 6,846,662, US published application 2005/176022, Australia 748,442, NZ 501,962, Brasil P19810643-0, Canada 2,294,792, China 98808383.3, EP 04026579.5, HK 01101501.9, Israel 133830, Japan 11-508771, Korean Patent 581990, Mexico 000196, and WO 1999/001560.