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Rohit Singh
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Tue, 13 Feb 2007

Patenting Genes

Patenting genes is a bad idea. A really bad idea. Michael Crichton argues likewise in the NYT. He is, of course, a bit more articulate about the whole thing. Genes are not your inventions--- just because you are the first one to find a particular gene doesn't mean you can patent it. Furthermore, given the astounding genomic-level similarity between organisms as seemingly diverse as fly and humans, enforcing a patent might well be impossible. For example. if I design diagnostic tests using a copy of the Chimp gene instead of the corresponding (patented) human gene, it is possible my test will still work. Did I then violate the patent?

Gene patenting is just stupid, whether it is done by companies or researchers in academia. The former often do it to justify their investment in the related basic research. Well, this is not the way-- such ludicrous patenting is just another indication the totally out-of-whack IP and incentive system in the pharmaceutical sector. For an academic researcher to patent the genes is even more perplexing. After all, they were funded by public money, exactly for the purpose of doing basic research others can build upon.

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