WiCell Research Institute, a Wisconsin-based non-profit research group, will run the USA’s first embryonic stem cell bank under a four-year, $16 million federal contract.

“At a minimum, we will be a single portal so people can do one-stop shopping” for stem cells, said Carl Gulbrandsen, president of WiCell’s board of directors.

The goal of the bank will be to consolidate all lines of embryonic stem cells available for use in federally funded studies into one place, significantly reducing the cost of stem cells while allowing researchers to learn more about them. The cost of UW-Madison’s lines, for instance, will decrease to $500 per shipment from $5,000 previously.

“This resource will enable us to fully analyze, characterize and control the quality of approved cell lines,” said Elias Zerhouni, director of the National Institutes of Health, which announced the award to the WiCell Research Institute on Monday.

WiCell already has the right to distribute five lines developed at the school and has an agreement to distribute six lines held by Singapore-based ES Cell International to U.S. researchers, said Derek Hei, a UW-Madison scientist who helped land the contract.

“Those lines represent the vast majority of the cell lines that have been distributed and have been published in the scientific literature,” Hei said.

However republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature sent Gov. Jim Doyle a bill last week that would ban cloning of human embryos for research purposes, a technique researchers hope to use to grow tissue types that could replace diseased body parts.

Doyle, a Democrat, said that he will veto the measure, and guaranteed on Monday it would withstand any override attempt by lawmakers. He said he often meets with parents who have children with juvenile diabetes.

“To them, the thought that this potential line of research be cut off is just unthinkable,” he said. He called the bank “another step forward for us to make sure that Wisconsin is in the lead in ensuring that there is hope for these families.”

Source: CNN [www.cnn.com/2005/TECH/science/10/04/stemcell.bank.ap/index.html?section=cnn_latest]