Letter from Eric A. Barnard to Marshall W. Nirenberg
Barnard provides Nirenberg with a report on the use of cell lines by the Medical Research Council (MRC) at the University
of Cambridge Medical School in England. He also addresses the issue of ownership rights for the cells obtained from Nirenberg
but developed at MRC. The advice of Nirenberg is requested.
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2 (153,035 Bytes)
1989-01-09 (January 9, 1989)
Barnard, Eric A.
Medical Research Council of Great Britain
Nirenberg, Marshall W.
Reproduced with permission of the Medical Research Council of Great Britain.
It is quite a long time since we were in contact. Happy New Year! I do hope all is well with you.
I am writing to give you a report on our use of the hybrid cell lines which you so kindly provided to me in 1986. You may
recall that after I spoke to you at the Katchalski Conference in England and we arranged that we could use the brainstem-neuroblastoma
hybrid cell lines which you had made and stored, we received these and they were worked on here jointly by Michael Hanley
and myself, and also by a Hungarian lab. who are collaborating with us and send workers here for that purpose. Michael has
been in touch with you since, but the time has come for me to summarize to you what has been found overall with them, since
(a) we are about to write up results using those lines and (b) a question has arisen about a commercial organization acquiring
one of them, which I need your guidance on.
Two of the lines have been examined in detail, which we named BS1 and BS2 (BS = brain stem). These were freed from contaminating
cells and the hybrid neurons were grown in permanent cultures, which have proved fully stable and monotypic. BS1 has no opioid
receptors but does have some other receptors which are not yet well defined. BS2 has been characterized extensively: it has
a variety of receptors on it, including bradykinin and NMDA. It has opioid receptors, kappa and delta. It also constitutive
voltage-activated Na+, K+ and Ca2+ (monitored by Ba2+) channels. (All of these results are mentioned here on a confidential
We intend to use these cells now in some final experiments prior to publication. I felt that at this stage I should summarize
the joint results, and check with you about the publication. We would, of course, fully acknowledge you as the originator
of the cells and send you manuscripts when submitted. I believe this is what was said at the time, but I want to check that
you are quite happy about this or have any other wishes.
Secondly, originally I sent you a letter (June 23, 1986) stating, as requested, that we would not pass on these cells or derivatives
of them to anyone else without your agreement. I have not given them outside this Unit, other than to the Hungarian laboratory
mentioned above - who cleared this with you in person at the time, and who are doing the work strictly in collaboration with
myself and have in turn given the same guarantee. However, a US pharmaceutical company - following up on a contact they had
with someone in this Unit - want to acquire BS2 for use in testing drugs on the NMDA (and perhaps other) receptors and for
molecular biology on the NMDA receptor. This was not envisaged by myself when I got the cell lines from you, and I would
like any such commercial development to be conducted in a proper manner, and after your agreement, on whatever terms are appropriate.
Does NIH own the rights to the cells themselves? It is true that the recognition of the receptors on them was made here,
so that MRC has an interest also, but since the cell line was created by you at NIH, I would be glad to receive advice on
what would be required from your end, if we were to provide them in that context.