Posting in Cancer
Did you know that 20 percent of your genes are patented? Are patents necessary for innovation?
To patent or not to patent, that is the question.
There's a slight problem with patenting genes, as I mentioned in a previous post:
In theory, patents are supposed to encourage innovation. But as more companies own your genes, the whole business of gene patenting has been put into doubt. The real tragedy occurs when the right of a patent overrides the right of a patient. And this can happen when a company has an exclusive license, the patient can’t get a second-opinion test and is stuck with the one test. That’s exactly what the Myriad patent was doing.
The BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes (linked to breast and ovarian cancer) were licensed exclusively to Myriad Genetics, until the US Southern District Court of New York invalidated them. As Myriad appeals the court’s decision, the biotech community bites its fingernails, worried about what this means for the other thousands of genes that have been patented since the 1980s.
But as far as the old argument that biotech companies need patent protection for investment purposes and to keep research moving forward, Koepsell thinks otherwise. He actually thinks gene patents are not essential to development and the free market can work itself out.
Koepsell is not the alone in his thinking. I wrote earlier that:
Beyond the patent system, there are other ways to reward innovation. For more than a hundred years, the patent system has incentivized discovery, but this winner take all approach might be outdated. Caltech researchers found that the market economy can inspire more innovation than our patent system. Simply put, let investors buy and sell shares off their invention. Even if you do away with the patent system entirely, people would still invent. Creativity and intellectual curiosity are part of human nature.
He also discusses the future of genetic research — it's headed towards synthetic biology and away from nanotechnology. Building our own nature seems to be the way to go to do the things we think nanotechnology can accomplish.
But does this mean patents will give Craig Venter a monopoly over synthetic life?
Koepsell's book, Who Owns You, is going to take on another form. Watch the trailer for the documentary:
Photo: Dollar Bin/ flickr
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Aug 24, 2010
Reminds me of an old joke: A molecular biologist meets Mother Nature in a dream one night, and the following conversation takes place: Biologist: ?We?ve plumbed the depths of the cell, and we?re learning how to replicate and even design our own proteins; we?re teasing out the complexities of the human genome and now that we?ve mapped out several organisms, we?re identifying errors in the code, and fixing them! It?s only a matter of time before we?ll be able to take some dirt and fashion a human being.? Mother Nature: ?Hmm... so you think you?re on the verge of building a human from scratch? Show me.? As the biologist reaches for some dirt, Mother Nature says: ?Oh, no. Use your own dirt.?
The human and every other specie's genome is the collective "property" of humanity, or species involved - especially when that species cannot speak for itself. Any government agency that is so arrogant as to assume it has the right to allow a gene to be patented is morally bankrupt. Thus such patents should in no way be recognized by any any other government or agency or by scientists, etc. J
The human and every specie's genome is the collective "property" of humanity/specie involved. Any government agency that is so arrogant as to assume it has the power or right to allow a gene to be patented is morally bankrupt. Thus such patents should in no way be recognized either by any other government or agency or scientist, etc. J
Wow. Patent my multiracial genetics and charge most of the populations of 4 of five races. Isn't colonialism amazing? Discover a continent or a gene pool and economically disenfranchise the natives. Proves that even education and advancement can't trump pure damned greed.
I think I want to patent the genes that make Boonsri so beautiful. That way I would own part of most beautiful girls in the world and could charge them when they have babies (if they wanted to have them or not). ;)
Not necessarily true re. "...only the people working under that corporation can look at the research and the innovation process is only limited to those few". Might be true, might not be true. A patent protects the idea but not typically the *implementation*. The implementation part is usually proprietary and locked-up, but a patent means that you don't even need a nondisclosure agreement to discuss the subject of the patent. It's in the open. If a profit-driven company doesn't have a patent on the idea then it is less likely to publish its research. Reason: because it has no way to recoup the money it spent on research to produce a product to make money. Having a patent doesn't mean they'll publish their research, but without a patent... well, forget it! It's just like running a household. Bu yes, the patent system needs a major overhaul.
I concur with chrissiehamblin, but I would also like to add another argument. When something is patented by a corporation, it means that only the people working under that corporation can look at the research and the innovation process is only limited to those few. However, if research were not patented and information were allowed to be seen by the scientific community at large, you have the perspectives of much more people from around the world contributing ideas. So basically it's innovation by the few (as with the case of patenting) or innovation with the masses (no patents).
So if my wife and I decide to have children are we leaving ourselves open to be sued for patent infringement if our children are found to have any of these "patented" genes in their genetic makeup? Or rather would any children born to us be considered a "fork" of the original(s) and therefor be classified as entirely separate and unique entities and thus safe from prosecution by patent holders? And if that were the case, would said children be licensed under GPLV2? You can't be too careful about these things you know. ;-)
Albee is correct. I don't agree with patents. Soon, the entire intellectual property framework will collapse in a mess of trolls suing corporations, getting destroyed by the very weapons they use to dominate.
If they patent a gene that is in my body and part and parcel of my makeup, why isn't my name on the patent? And what is my share of the profits from any end result of research into using that gene?
This is beyond all reason. There should be a category for such malarky in the forthcoming DSM 5. You can ascribe the intricate miracles of life to chance or you can credit God, but our genes were not created by a geneticist and patents such as this should never be granted.
I had understood that patents cannot be granted for anything that occurs in nature, which would include human gene sequences. A technique can be patented, and perhapds Myriad owns the only effective technique for isolating or manipulating BRCA1 and BRCA2. I could see that "Myriad owns your genes" is linguistic shorthand for "Myriad owns the only known effective technique for dealing with this genetic defect". Perhaps Ms. Dickinson could do some more checking and report back whether we're dealing a legally recognized ownership situation or a linguistic shorthand?
I am completely against the unethical altering of genes by chemical and other manipulative means and the patenting of any gene. The food industry, Monsanto in particular, with their patents on genetically altered seed is hurting the food industry for the whole world. As the wind blows so blows the pollen from their plants along with everyone else. As these pollinate naturally and because they have the "patented gene" by law, Monsanto owns that crop even though it wasn't intentional to raise that crop with those genes. They then make the farmers eight destroy the crop or pay a fine. What do you think? Is this what patents were created for? This problem after 20yrs is world wide and expanding to larger and larger areas. People don't want to eat genetically altered food. I know I sure don't and because of natural pollination, soon there will not be any "natural food" .
I think I will patent air and charge everyone for the privilege of breathing. LOL! Get real people!!!
I agree with chrissiehamblin. To say you own someone's genes is to say you own them (sounds like slavery to me). I thought patenting was for those that invented something, not discover it. They discovered the gene, not invented it. God invented it, so he is the owner, not a man.
It seems that specific DNA sequences should more appropriately be a matter for copyright protection, rather than patent protection. Speaking for myself, the various components of my genetic sequence were all recorded in fixed form in my grandparents, in the United States or other countries subscribing to the Berne Convention, prior to 1920. In other words, my genes are all in the public domain. Have at 'em.
Patents are not necessary for innovation. They are necessary for stifling it. When you get bureaucrats who don't know or don't want to work to research or think you get patents on existing genes, you get patents on business processes, and you get these big pharma companies going to China and India and taking the formulations for Aryuvedic and Traditional Chinese Medicine and getting them patented in the USA. Yeah... they are doing that.
If one can patent someone's genes then why is it that Einstein did now earn the patent rights for the universe? Think about it!
I agree wholeheartedly with chrissiehamblin: patenting genes is a very bad idea. It could potentially lead to the ownership of human beings, a terrible practice we still haven't fully eradicated in other avenues of life. Additionally, there is another problem with patenting genes (and many other things, frankly): the patent, which is supposed to encourage innovation, can stifle it. After all, if my biotech company has to pay an exorbitant license fee to a patent holder, my investors will not be eager to challenge the patent holder and out-innovate them. The patent holder in essence can easily build a monopoly over research (and therefore profit) on a particular patent. And as mihondo points out, we also shouldn't be able to patent the basic building blocks of the universe.
I should be able to patent a novel way to manipulate or use a gene. But I shouldn't be able to patent the way it already work... or patent its existence. I can patent a way to compress air... but I can't patent air... hmmmm or can I? Now there is a money maker!
As a molecular geneticist, I think it is seriously unethical to allow individuals to patent genes. They may have discovered the sequence but the sequence was pre-existing so they didn't invent the gene. No-one owns my genes but me - they are unique to me and only I can give permission for their use or otherwise. As far as synthetic life is concerned, if it copies existing life and simply is a synthetic or re-arranged copy, the same argument exists. Dr Craig Ventner can only claim patent over the process with integrity, not the result. Or has he become God? I think not!