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Author Topic: Patenting Genes  (Read 4199 times)

Offline Sue Clarry

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Patenting Genes
« on: January 18, 2007, 11:59:26 AM »
Michael Crichton is a Medical Doctor, but he prefers to writing novels to practicing medicine. Several of his bestsellers have been made into movies, such as The Andromeda Strain and Jurassic Park. His latest novel, Next, tackles the issues of bioengineering and, more specifically, the growing practice of patenting genes – yes, patenting genes, and patenting diseases, and also patenting the relationships between diseases and things like vitamin deficiencies!

For example, here is a statement that is familiar to Bauman College students: “Elevated homocysteine is linked to B-12 deficiency, so doctors should test homocysteine levels to see whether the patient needs vitamins.”

Crichton says, “Actually, I can't make that last statement. A corporation has patented that fact, and demands a royalty for its use. Anyone who makes the fact public and encourages doctors to test for the condition and treat it can be sued for royalty fees. Any doctor who reads a patient's test results and even thinks of vitamin deficiency infringes the patent. A federal circuit court held that mere thinking violates the patent.

In 1986 researchers filed a patent application for a method of testing the levels of homocysteine, an amino acid, in the blood. They went one step further and asked for a patent on the basic biological relationship between homocysteine and vitamin deficiency. A patent was granted that covered both the test and the scientific fact. Eventually, a company called Metabolite took over the license for the patent. Although Metabolite does not have a monopoly on test methods-other companies make homocysteine tests, too-they assert licensing rights on the correlation of elevated homocysteine with vitamin deficiency. A company called LabCorp used a different test but published an article mentioning the patented fact. Metabolite sued on a number of grounds, and has won in court so far.”

Chilling, huh? His new novel, Next,  takes this disturbing trend to its absurd extreme, but it does make his point. Check out his website for articles and interviews:

« Last Edit: June 21, 2007, 01:57:49 PM by Marlina E »