Monday, January 12, 2009

But it's too late, baby....

Commenting on the pwoemrd of the post below, Geof Huth writes "soon enough..."

Unfortunately, Geof, it's not something that's coming, it's something that's already here, & has been for some time.

In an article, Intellectual Property Landscape of the Human Genome, in Science, from 2005, Jensen & Murray wrote:
"Our results reveal that nearly 20% of human genes are explicitly claimed as U.S. IP. This represents 4382 of the 23,688 of genes in the NCBI’s gene database at the time of writing These genes are claimed in 4270 patents within 3050 patent families. Although this number is low compared with prior reports, a distinction should be made between sequences that are explicitly claimed and those that are merely disclosed, which outnumber claimed sequences roughly 10:1. The 4270 patents are owned by 1156 different assignees (with no adjustments for mergers and acquisition activity, subsidiaries, or spelling variations). Roughly 63% are assigned to private firms. Of the top ten gene patent assignees, nine are U.S.-based, including the University of California, Isis Pharmaceuticals, the former SmithKline Beecham, and Human Genome Sciences. The top patent assignee is Incyte Pharmaceuticals/ Incyte Genomics, whose IP rights cover 2000 human genes, mainly for use as probes on DNA microarrays."
Any Google search using the terms "gene patents" or "patented genes" will lead to a large number of links. Amongst them is an 2007 op-ed piece in The New York Times by the recently-deceased Michael Crichton.
"Gene patents are now used to halt research, prevent medical testing and keep vital information from you and your doctor. Gene patents slow the pace of medical advance on deadly diseases. And they raise costs exorbitantly: a test for breast cancer that could be done for $1,000 now costs $3,000."
The full piece, well worth reading, can be found here

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