The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation entered a licensing agreement in early January with a biotech company to commercialize stem cell technology created at the University of Wisconsin.

WARF signed a nonexclusive licensing agreement with BioTime, Inc., a biotech company located in Emeryville, Calif.

The contract allows BioTime to use technologies developed by UW biologist James Thomson for commercial use, covering 173 patents and patent applications relating to human embryonic stem cell technology.

According to the terms of the agreement, BioTime will pay WARF a license fee of $225,000, plus quarterly royalties and an annual maintenance fee of $25,000. The agreement will last until the expiration of the latest licensed patent held by WARF for the relevant technology.

Hal Sternberg, BioTime?s vice president of research, said BioTime intends to develop research tools for facilitating stem cell research. The technology will be designed to help researchers isolate and identify cell types, generate new cell types and purify derived cells.

According to Sternberg, BioTime also hopes to create technology to aid in ?scaling up? the available numbers of stem cell lines.

?Obviously, it?s of great value as the field progresses,? he added.

BioTime will develop and commercialize the technology through its wholly owned subsidiary Embryome Sciences, Sternberg said. The first factors, which signal stem cells to become a specific cell type, are scheduled to be released March 2008.

Sternberg said BioTime?s goal is to help the whole field develop cell lines for therapeutic use. He added the agreement will be very profitable for BioTime because the stem cell field will continue to grow.

The technology will be marketed toward private and public universities and corporations.

?I believe this field will be around for a very long time,? Sternberg said. ?It?s something you can?t get rid of, like computers.?

According to WARF communications director Janet Kelly, WARF regularly patents discoveries made by UW researchers and licenses them to companies. The revenues are then used to fund more research at the university.

Kelly said WARF was approached by BioTime about three months ago. BioTime?s executive director, Michael West, has had a professional relationship with Thomson since the researcher first isolated human embryonic stem cells in 1998.

Kelly added West has been ?in frequent contact? with WARF over the past 10 years.

?Michael West has been a pioneer in the field of regenerative medicine,? Kelly said. ?WARF really appreciates his pioneering work and leadership in the field.?

West has entered into licensing agreements for stem cell technology before. As the founder of the Geron Corporation, West was the first commercial licensee of Thomson?s technology.