Feb
14
2007

Patenting human genes

Help! Patent attack.: Somebody patented my face and I can't get it off.
Help! Patent attack.: Somebody patented my face and I can't get it off.

For once I agree with Michael Crichton. Allowing companies to hold patents on parts of the human genome is a very bad idea. Crichton wrote a great editorial in Feb. 13th's New York Times illustrating why human gene patents are such poppycock. It is a short read but it really got my blood boiling.

I was surprised to find out that one-fifth of the the human genome has already been patented by companies in the US. But a couple smart politicians, Xavier Becerra, a Democrat from California, and Dave Weldon, a Republican from Florida (yes Gene, I do think science and politics should mix) are introducing legislation that will stop this.

“We seek simply to fix a regulatory mistake,” Rep. Becerra said. “Genes are a product of nature; they were not created by man, but instead are the very blueprint that creates man, and thus, are not patentable. Gene patenting would be the analogous equivalent to patenting water, air, birds or diamonds.

Some people think that patents cause competition between companies that results in more active research. While others think that human gene patents actually inhibit research and are morally wrong. Tell us what you think below or vote in our poll, Should companies be able to patent human genes?

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Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Andrew Chin's picture

Crichton's knowledge of patent law is spotty, but he's on the right side of the debate. For a more detailed discussion, please see my blog.

posted on Thu, 02/15/2007 - 7:33pm
bryan kennedy's picture

Your blog does have a good analysis of the situation. Thanks for posting that. I agree that Crichton can often gloss over lots of the details on issues like this. I sure know plenty of nanoscientists who would rather his book Prey never got published for this very reason.

But like you said, in this case I am glad to have his populist appeal and ability to communicate on an important issue like this.

posted on Fri, 02/16/2007 - 11:25am

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