The Debate Over Gene Patenting Essay

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In June 2000, the publicly funded Human Genome Project (HGP) and the private firm Celera Genomics Inc. announced that they had completed sequencing the human genome. This unprecedented accomplishment is expected to enable doctors to diagnose, treat and even prevent numerous genetic diseases. As these two entities worked on sequencing the human genome, there was also a separate and less publicized race to patent as many human genes as possible. The patenting issue gained some attention when President Bill Clinton and Prime Minster Tony Blair jointly called for the release of raw genetic data into the public domain (CQ 405). I will argue in this paper that the aggressive competition among biotechnology firms to patent genes is…show more content…
Ideally a patent is not supposed to give monopoly over an idea to an inventor unless the idea is useful to the public. Thus, a gene should be shown to be capable of being useful to the public in the form of new products or treatment, before anyone should be able to patent it. When thinking about patents, many of us wonder how anyone can patent genes that all of us have carried since we were born. U.S patent law allows inventors to claim new and useful machines, processes, and objects as proprietary creations. This privilege, however, has not been extended to naturally occurring phenomena, such as elements in the periodic table. However, a legal precedent now allows human genes to be patented. In order to study genes, scientists have to isolate and manipulate genes in the laboratory. Thus, in the eyes of patent law, genes are treated just as any other man-made chemical ( Regalado 50). On the strength of this logic, the U.S Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) has been issuing patents to genetic discoveries since the 1970s. Human growth-hormone, insulin, erythropoietin-protein drugs with billions of dollars in combined sales are all manufactured using patented DNA sequences. The patenting race takes advantage of the same computer technology that made the sequencing possible. Companies seeking patents have been using automated DNA-sequencing machines to identify genes easily and cheaply. At the time when they file for the patents,
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