Patents on Genes


On Tuesday, a lawsuit was filed against the U.S. Patent and Trade Office and Myriad Genetics, challenging whether the U.S. government has the right to grant exclusive patent rights to private companies for human genes. The patenting of genes is not a new phenomenon; according to various sources such as National Geographic 20% of human genes have already been patented.

What I find interesting are the questions that arise from this case, since they have major implications for the future. Can you own the exclusive knowledge about human health? Can companies own individuals’ genes?

The plaintiffs in this case say that patents on human genes discourages new research because it creates a monopoly on knowledge; one entity essentially controls the knowledge about the human body with no competition. This raises serious health concerns because without competition, one can not get a second medical opinion, the costs for medical tests will likely remain the same, test procedures may not improve to become faster & more accurate.

Keep an eye on this case because it will likely head to the Supreme Court.

View the NBC video and read the New York Times article


About repplinger

John has served as a Reference Librarian at Willamette University since 2002. He is the liaison to the Science Departments, and is responsible for maintaining the collections related to the life & physical sciences. His research interests range over the entire spectrum of libraries and information sciences, but includes: - Google and its influence on information & society - The Internet's influence on information seeking & sharing behaviors - Trends of scholarly communication - Electronic learning environments - Traditional pedagogy - GIS use in academic libraries

Posted on May 13, 2009, in Health Info, Patents, Privacy and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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