Tue, 13 Feb 2007
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.