As genetic research continues to advance, commercial companies have found that there is greater profits to be found in patenting specific genes that are discovered. Gene patents have proven useful in developing some therapeutic proteins. A patent reform bill passed the House of Representatives and is pending in the Senate; there is also a bipartisan bill to ban gene patenting. France and Belgium have national laws that exempt diagnostic and research uses of gene patents from infringement liability, and have also created statutory authority for government to force patent-owners to license patents if not doing so would threaten public health. Includes the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s 2001 guidelines on gene patenting. Mary Crowley (Garrison, NY: The Hastings Center, 2008), 69-72. However, the U.S. Supreme Court came to the opposite conclusion only a few months later. Innovations have continued, and this is reassuring. “Gene patenting” Patent: A patent is a set of exclusive rights granted by a sovereign state to an inventor or assignee for a limited period of time in exchange for detailed public disclosure of an invention. In the United States, gene patents have only been granted to gene … These technologies, originally confined to research, are increasingly being used for ancestry-tracing, “personal genomics” offered directly to consumers, and other commercial purposes. “Gene patenting” is a broad term referring to the “patenting of either a process that involves isolation of DNA (where DNA refers to either DNA or associated materials such as RNA) as well as to a chemical substance related to DNA”. The Anticommons in Biomedical Research,” Science, May 1, 1998. In Europe, a group of nonprofit institutions challenged Myriad’s patents, which resulted in a considerable narrowing of one BRCA1 patent, while action on the other BRCA1 patents remains pending. Mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 account for an estimated 5–10% of breast cancer cases, as well as significantly elevated risk for ovarian and other cancers. In Canada, the health ministry of Ontario publicly refused to honor the terms of Myriad’s Canadian licensee, and so far no patent infringement lawsuit has been filed. Do the pros outweigh the cons when it comes to this commercial side of medicine? By patenting the gene, an agency can charge commissions or restrict research on specific gene therapies because they are in control of the patent on that gene. A 2005 National Research Council report included gene patents in a discussion of ways that Congress, the executive branch, and the courts could ensure rapid progress in life sciences and their application. In fact, Crichton even included an appendix in which he argues against gene patenting. Another fear is that gene patents may inhibit biomedical innovation by blocking scientists’ access to genes and genetic materials that are essential to research. Fears that gene patents might impede scientific research have not been borne out, at least to date. Director, Center for Genome Ethics, Law and Policy, Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy, Duke University, Professor of Law, Duke University School of Law, Professor and Research Director of the Health Law Institute, University of Alberta. By being able to patent genes, a company has the financial stability and security that will allow them to continue with their research. Gene patenting is unethical to those who see the human genome as our common heritage. Patenting also provides investors with a security that they have the chances of getting a return on their money. The primary issue with gene patenting is that the Supreme Court of the US has ruled that only artificial genes can be patented.
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