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http://www.latimes.com/business/updates/lat_patent000321.htm

Okay, after reading this HGSI article in the LA Times about the AIDS gene patent issue I'm going insane....

As far as I understood, you CANNOT patent a gene. You can only patent the USE of a gene.

HGSI patented the CCR5 gene a few years ago. At the time, they had no idea it was in any way related to how AIDS gets into cells. For those who don't know, this gene was later found to code for a receptor which, it seems, MUST be present in order for the AIDS virus to enter a cell. Thus, if people find a way to block the receptor, theoretically, they can block the entrance of the virus into cells.

Since they didn't know that at the time, HGSI couldn't have patented this gene for uses SPECIFICALLY related to AIDS. So, to me, it seems trivial that another company has the right to use the gene for this purpose. HGSI, of course, should have exclusive rights to using the gene for whatever purpose THEY had orignially written in their patent.

If this is true, then why is there even an argument about this topic??? They are arguing in the LA times article about whether or not HGSI had the correct CCR5 SEQUENCE in their patent, when it seems to me that they should be arguing over which USE they had in the patent...

Someone please answer this most FUNDAMENTAL, of FUNDAMENTAL questions in our beloved biotech arena. I thought I understood it until I read that article.

--emilan
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