Human Genome Patents in Court
In the US the Supreme Court heard arguments today on whether the human genome should be allowed to be patented as intellectual property as it has been for decades. Here is an article if you want to read up a bit:
At issue is, of course, money since investors like the idea of proprietary rights to the outcomes of the research, but also about what should or shouldn't be open to patent: Is the human genome part of nature and therefore should not be open to ownership? Do these patents stifle scientific research? Who's right? What should the law decide?
I read that title as Human Genome Project first, but then realised that I'd misread and wished that I hadn't. This is muuuuuch worse.
I don't understand how someone can patent parts of life, honestly. Genes are discovered; they're not an idea that someone comes up with and not a product that someone manufactures. The idea of patenting them is just... ugh. Absolutely absurd and nothing but money grabbing.
I also feel like the argument that the companies isolated the genes, therefore making them a product of human ingenuity to be a seriously weak one. If I pull a leaf off of a tree, that doesn't make it a product of ingenuity. It makes it a leaf that's been pulled off a tree. Just like an isolated gene is... nothing more than a gene removed from DNA. I assume the companies isolated them through the use of restriction enzymes too. Guessing they made those themselves? No? Then that's not theirs either so they can't even claim to have come up with the tools used to isolate the genes.
The companies in no way own genes and should absolutely not be able to patent them. What next? They sue people for having cells expressing 'their' patented genes? I hope for the sake of science that this doesn't go ahead.
Genes can be manufactured as well as discovered. If I analyzed all of the residues of a certain protein, I could make modifications here and there in the DNA to make a better protein with none of the shortcomings. People have done that to make bacterial enzymes usable in detergent where the pH would otherwise destroy them. Synthetic DNA would be totally fine with me.
But isolating genes found in nature is laughable. I could do that for a master's thesis but I don't think I'd expect to get paid for it XD. It would be terrible if all the different mutations responsible for cystic fibrosis were to be owned by different companies, so in order to develop a genetic screening test you had to get licensing from all of them. So even these patents do incentivize research and development, it'll probably add up to a lot of inefficiency and underutilization on the market.
Oh! For clarification, I'd be okay with manufactured genes being patented, maaaaaybe as well as genetically engineered plasmids and the like. If it doesn't occur naturally then I'm alright with it (to an extent anyway) but human genes occurring naturally is a gigantic no from me.
Can you put a patent on Natural genes? That just seems kind of wrong to me. Its a natural thing that all humans have and genes in general are something all life has, can you really put a patent on that? I really dont think it's right. Im talking about what's naturally occuring here, not man made genes.
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