Geron Corp., and Exeter Life Sciences, Inc. announced the merger of Start Licensing, Inc., a joint venture between Geron and Exeter Life Sciences, and ViaGen, Inc., a subsidiary of Exeter Life Sciences.

Start manages and licenses a broad portfolio of intellectual property rights related to animal reproductive technologies, including animal cloning. ViaGen is a leading animal genomics and livestock cloning firm.

The merger of Start and ViaGen, combines the full breadth of intellectual property rights to nuclear transfer cloning technology, including that developed at the Roslin Institute for cloning Dolly the sheep, with in-house state-of-the-art breeding services and expertise in advanced reproductive technologies, particularly in cloning, to provide a one-stop licensing and operating company.

"We believe it makes sound business sense to join a patent estate for nuclear transfer that has been tested and is recognized as dominant with a leading operating company in the field," said David Greenwood, Geron's executive vice president and chief financial officer.

"We have built a world-class team of cloning practitioners and have key industry relationships in place," said Jonathan Thatcher, Exeter Life Science's chief executive officer. "We are now creating a company that holds the proprietary intellectual property and has demonstrated operating leadership in the field. Customers can secure a license to practice or contract cloning services."

"Our company has demonstrated expertise in use of nuclear transfer technology to clone animals for better breeding," said Mark Walton, ViaGen's chief executive officer. "To date more than a dozen species have been successfully cloned. There is a clear utility for animal cloning, ranging from agricultural applications to the conservation of endangered species and biopharmaceutical production."

Under the terms of the merger, ViaGen acquired the shares of Start held by Geron of Menlo Park, Calif. and Exeter Life Sciences of Phoenix, in exchange for equity in ViaGen. Start will continue to operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary of ViaGen.

Source: Geron press release