Eighteen years after the first report of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), Professor Yuanjia Hu of the Institute of Chinese Medical Sciences (ICMS) and Distinguished Professor Ren-He Xu of the Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) at the UM conducted a collaborative study that for the first time systematically mapped global patents and clinical trials in this Nobel Prize-discovered technology area. The research results were published in Nature Biotechnology, an internationally renowned academic journal.

Global patent landscape of induced pluripotent stem cells


iPSCs are a type of pluripotent stem cells generated from somatic cells with several reprogramming factors. iPSCs share characteristics with embryonic stem cells, and both have great potential in study of disease modeling, regenerative medicine, drug screening and toxicological study. This work conducted full-field scanning, data linkage, and alignment analysis on 11,252 patents and 93 clinical trials related to iPSCs, providing a scientific decision-making reference for basic research and clinical applications of iPSCs.


Patents have shown rapid growth worldwide, while the number of clinical trials has been relatively stable in this area. The United States has the most patents, with 4,435, followed by Japan (3,454) and China (1,309). Kyoto University in Japan, where Nobel Prize winner Shinya Yamanaka works, has the most patent applications. The share of corporate patents has increased steadily over the past 15 years. This subtle structural change in the types of patentees reflects the active transfer of academic research achievements to industrialization.


From the perspective of technological development, iPSCs-related research focus has gradually shifted from the reprogramming technology to the improvement of safety and efficiency, such as the research of non-viral vectors. Improvements in reprogramming methods have made iPSCs technology safer, laying the foundation for its further promotion in clinical applications. In addition, the emergence and continuous innovation of new technologies represented by genome editing, 3D organoids and others that are yet to arrive will further enhance and explore new applications of iPSCs, providing a research basis for the subsequent industrialization of iPSCs.


The research, titled “Mapping global landscape for induced pluripotent stem cells from patents and clinical trials” (DOI:10.1038/s41587-024-02196-1), were published in Nature Biotechnology, with Ren-He Xu and Yuanjia Hu serving as co-corresponding authors, as well as Ph.D. candidate Liyang Lyu, master’s graduate Ye Feng of ICMS, and Dr. Borong Huang of FHS contributed as co-first authors.


Group photo of the research team (from left, Liyang Lyu, Yuanjia Hu, Ren-He Xu, Borong Huang)


This research was supported with the Ministry of Science and Technology National Key R&D grant [2022YFA1105000], National Science Foundation China general grant [32270842], Macau Science and Technology Development Fund grants [0002-2021-AKP, 0071-2022-A2, 005/2023/SKL, SKL-QRCM(UM)-2023-2025], University of Macau grants [CPG2024-00037-FHS, MYRG2020-00140-FHS, MYRG2022-00044-FHS, MYRG2022-00103-ICMS, MYRG-CRG2023-00007-ICMS-IAS], and Zhuhai UM Science & Technology Research Institute grant [CP-033-2021]. Patent data support was also provided by the Derwent Innovation of the University of Macau Library.


Paper link: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41587-024-02196-1