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Greetings all,

The genomics/biotech corporations don't want to see the heavy and clumsy hand of Governement regulations into their business. As an investor, I don't want that either.

But it looks like some of them are precisely attracting potential trouble big time. Why?
There's an (over?)eagerness IMHO, in patenting genes without demonstrating a clear benefit to the world. This is troublesome. Consider, as an example, the, IMHO worthwhile, following story published in the Philadelphia Inquirer at:

http://www.phillynews.com/inquirer/2000/Feb/13/front_page/PATENT13.htm

Some exerpts:

Dr. Debra Leonard is frustrated.

As chief of the molecular pathology laboratory at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, she has seen how genetic screening makes it possible to diagnose more diseases and improve the odds of predicting who will get others.

It allows her to tell families that a child's breathing problems mean cystic fibrosis - or reassure them that it doesn't. Genetic screening also can add to the weight of evidence that an aging parent's confusion is caused by Alzheimer's disease.

At the same time, she is more and more hamstrung in her ability to do genetic testing. That's because a growing number of genes are being patented and the companies and universities that hold those patents are stepping up efforts to limit how Leonard and other hospital clinicians use them in diagnosis


[snip]

Dozens of hospital laboratory directors have reported receiving cease-and-desist letters from Athena and other companies, Merz said. Among them:

Athena requires tests using the Alzheimer's gene and other genes that it controls to be done in the company's lab. It charges $195 per screening - double what Leonard's lab had been billing patients. Boss said Athena's rate was reasonable, as similar tests usually cost about $250.

SmithKline Beecham Clinical Laboratories requested a $25,000 up-front fee and a per-test payment from labs that wanted to screen for hereditary hemochromatosis, a potentially life-threatening oversupply of iron in the blood.
(Am I hearing JD's blood boiling here?)


Next, point your attention to President Clinton's remarks about gene patenting and HGSI answer, supporting the President:

http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/000212/md_human_g_1.html

``The President is dead right in opposing broad patents of the human genetic code. That would be an abuse of the patent process -- locking up commercial rights without placing correspondingly valuable knowledge in the public domain. The beauty of patents is their implicit quid pro quo,' he added. ``To get a temporary right to commercially exploit a discovery, you have to disclose it to the world as well as its potential utility. That is how progress has occurred in genomics. But, allowing broad patents on the genetic code without the revelation of specific possible applications would only obstruct that progress for the life of the patent.'

OK, maybe this is all overblowned media sensationalism and political grand standing. Or is it? I, for my part, find it perplexing at best, dangerously attracting wannabe activists and regulation-prone political power-brokers at worst. Maybe we need a lawful restriction to genes broad-patenting for the sake of it, clearly REQUIRING a demonstration of benefit in diagnosis, manufacturing etc. Somehow, the industry ought to regulate itself betterIf not, guess who'll be more than happy to do so with a vengeance?

Comments anyone?

Francois

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