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Women With Patents: Ann Tsukamoto

Emily D'Agostino

May 23, 2021

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According to the US Patent and Trademark Office, women constituted only 12.8% of the share of inventors receiving patents in 2019. Although up from the 12.1% Women Inventor Rate (WIR) in 2016, there is still considerable room for improvement. The STEM field is one of the most patent heavy fields yet according to the National Girls Collaborative Project, only 28% of the STEM workforce is female. This, however, has not deterred some women in science from undertaking groundbreaking STEM pursuits. Among these incredible women is inventor Ann Tsukamoto.

Tsukamoto holds seven granted patents in the area of stem cell research, with five additional patent applications pending. She is primarily credited with discovering blood stem cells and inventing a way to isolate them. These discoveries came about in the early 1990s with patents awarded in 1990 and 1997, respectively. Her discoveries have paved the way for groundbreaking research in cancer treatment. Specifically, these cells have been found to have the capability to allow for regeneration of certain components of blood forming systems in patients that have undergone specific damaging forms of chemotherapy.

Her later patents acquired during her tenure at StemCells, Inc. involve various methods for identifying and isolating pancreatic and liver stem cells as well as her most recent patent application in 2017 involving editing genes within neural stem cells, which, yes, she also discovered in part. The latter patent involves preventative techniques that may be utilized in the future to inhibit the development of neurological disease or even to treat existing injury to the nervous system.

Ann Tsukamoto is a pioneer in stem cell research and applications who has steadily worked to narrow the gender disparity among patent holders along the way. Despite the closing of biotech firm StemCells, Inc in 2016, she is still a pivotal member of many stem cell research projects and she has continued to make contributions that will more than likely aid in the development of a variety of cancer treatments to come.

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