BACKGROUND: Feeder cells are frequently used for the early-stage of derivation and culture of human embryonic stem cell (hESC) lines. METHODS: We established a conditionally immortalized human foreskin fibroblast line that secreted basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF). These cells were used as feeder cells for hESC culture and induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell derivation and expansion. This conditional immortalization was performed using lentiviral vector (LV) mediated transduction of Bmi-1 and human telomerase reverse transcriptase genes and the resulting cell line was further modified by LV-mediated transduction of a secreted form of bFGF gene product. Three different laboratories have tested whether this feeder cell line could support the maintenance of four different hESC lines. RESULTS: Immortalized fibroblasts secreting stable amounts of bFGF supported the growth of all hESC lines, which remained pluripotent and had a normal karyotype for at least 10 passages. Even at high passage (p56), these modified cells, when used as feeders, could support iPS derivation and propagation. Derived iPS cells expressed pluripotency markers, had hESC morphology and produced tissue components of the three germ layers when differentiated in vitro. CONCLUSION: These modified fibroblasts are useful as a genetically-defined feeder cell line for reproducible and cost-effective culture of both hESC and iPS cells.