July 11, 2020

The Niche

Knoepfler lab stem cell blog

Cellular Dynamics IPO: big money, iPS cell IP rights, trade secrets

Cellular Dynamics
Cellular Dynamics logo.

Cellular Dynamics, the stem cell company founded by Dr. James Thomson, is filing for an IPO. Hat tip to David Jensen.

The company, which will go under the stock symbol ICEL, is focused on iPS cell-produced products. They describe their portfolio as follows:

Cellular Dynamics is developing and deploying a number of cell types derived from induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells in additional to providing custom services to aid in life science research and drug discovery.

If you recall, both Thomson and Dr. Shinya Yamanaka both produced human iPS cells using related, but somewhat different reprogramming factors. Yamanaka produced mouse iPS cells an entire year earlier than that, well before anyone else.

A recent question is the issue of who has the intellectual property (IP) rights to iPS cell technology. People have told me in the past that they wondered if Cellular Dynamics has unambiguous rights to develop all of these iPS cell-based products.

The Cellular Dynamics IPO is going to be for up to $57 million. The full filing can be read here.

This IPO filing is intriguing in that it indicates a licensing agreement to the Yamanaka-related patents:

Yamanaka patent estate
Our license agreement with iPS Academia Japan (iPS AJ) provides us with a non-exclusive, worldwide, research use only license to basic patent rights filed by Yamanaka. This patent estate includes 39 U.S. and foreign patents and patent applications expiring between 2026 and 2029 the most significant of which so far is U.S. Patent No. 8,048,999, which covers the Yamanaka set of reprogramming factors. These licensed patents cover our MyCell product, the work that we are to do for CIRM and future iCell products when made from iPSCs made using episomal reprogramming. We agreed to pay to iPS AJ a license fee and royalties including a minimum annual maintenance fee. To date we have paid iPS AJ approximately $351,000 in license fee and royalties. The license agreement will terminate upon the expiration of the last to expire patent within the licensed patents, and it is subject to early termination by iPS AJ in the event of certain breaches by us of the license agreement.
In addition to our portfolio of patents and patent rights, we maintain many of our techniques, protocols and procedures as trade secrets. The documents embodying such techniques, protocols and procedures were all developed as a part of our QMS and new product introduction (NPI) system and are company trade secrets and are maintained as such. All manufacturing is performed using tested trade secret-protected manufacturing protocols. We take all appropriate measures to ensure that we maintain the protection of these materials as trade secrets.

I find it very interesting that this licensing was deemed necessary. Other labs developing iPS cell-related technologies should take heed that even Thomson’s company decided it had to get licensing from Yamanaka although Thomson has been an innovator on iPS cells too.

Trade secrets are frequently mentioned in the IPO filing.

This looks to be very interesting and could transform the field as it develops. I’ve only scratched the surface of reading this very long, detail rich IPO filing, which likely has a lot more in the way of interesting nuggets.

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