John Sulston, a human genome project contributor, has clashed with Craig Venter over commercial interests in the human genome. He is hoping that Venter’s patent applications on the pioneering synthetic genome will be rejected. He finds the patents too broad and feels the resulting monopoly would choke scientific progress in genetics and would be unethical.
Venter’s Institute spokesman doubted any one company could hold a monopoly on genetic research.
Read an article by Daniel Cressey in The Nature Blog, dated May 25, 2010.
Read an article by Pallab Ghosh, BBC Science Correspondent, dated May 25, 2010, discussing in further detail John Sulston’s argument and concern over an increased use of patents by genetic researchers.
In general, it is important to preserve the patent process to support innovation, by assisting Biotechnology companies to secure financing, because patents give protection from competition for a fixed period. However, if the patent granted is too broad and chokes future research projects or cloaks research efforts in secrecy to prevent sharing before patent application, then this too chokes the progress of research.
Our job is to discover the natural beauty of the bounty that surrounds us and find how the machinery of a natural organism works and interacts, the various biochemical pathways and their interactions. It has been proven that such work is best done when the best international minds work together to solve great scientific puzzles.
It has also been shown that it is important to bring lab science into the commercial sphere so that the public can enjoy the scientific discoveries eg., Aspirin; Lipitor; Benadryl and more. The genetic revolution has only recently begun to produce personalized new drugs eg., Herceptin for breast cancer treatment and the highly controversial control over the breast cancer genetic lab test. This interplay between the human genome and the unlimited commercial potential of controlling the entire market in genetics drugs is what is drawing the largest adversaries: those for and those against gene patenting. Stay tuned for nature vs gene patents.