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Thread: Human genes cannot be patented

  1. #1 Human genes cannot be patented 
    Moderator Moderator Cogito Ergo Sum's Avatar
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    The US Supreme Court ruled yesterday that human genes cannot be patented, but:
    "(...) the Justices also ruled that synthetic DNA sequences—known as complimentary DNA (cDNA)—are eligible for protection. "A naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated," wrote Justice Clarence Thomas, "but cDNA is patent eligible because it is not naturally occurring.""

    This ruling means that pharmaceutical companies no longer have a monopoly on the tests for the presence of genes, allowing competition that will hopefully drive down costs.

    In my opinion, this is good news and I hope that these rules will also be extended to plant and animal genes. What do you think?


    Source:
    http://www.the-scientist.com/?articl...g-Human-Genes/


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  3. #2  
    Northern Horse Whisperer Moderator scheherazade's Avatar
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    'Human genes cannot be patented, but...'

    It's the 'but' that could be of concern, depending on just how much or little tweaking is required to determine a 'synthetic' DNA and what applications the Bio-Tech companies intend.

    Molecular Genetics II - Genetic Engineering Course (Supplementary notes)Figures showing examples of cDNA synthesis

    cDNA Synthesis and Cloning


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  4. #3  
    Ascended Member Ascended's Avatar
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    The whole idea that private companies should or could able to patent anything that is actually part of a human being is so absurd it's offensive. I don't even think the Supreme Court should have had the right to make such a ruling, there are certain things fundemental to all human life that no Court, Organisation or Government should be able to have control over.

    Genes affect the very essence that makes us human so why on Earth would we ever want anybody to be able to exploit them for profit?
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  5. #4  
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    It costs a lot of time, energy, and effort to isolate one. Even more to figure out what it does. Patents expire. Letting them patent one is at least better than letting them copyright it.

    Hopefully they'll still be able to patent the process they used to extract a given gene. I hope if they discover a particular segment of the gene does a particular task, and can be used in a particular way, that they'd be eligible for a patent for the use of that discovery. IE. extracting segment X, in order to use it for Y medical use.

    Each person you want to implant the gene in needs that gene to be compatible with their own so their immune system won't reject it anyway, don't they? So I'm not sure what they'd do with a patent of a gene sequence. Build a clone army? Even if it were an artificial gene, if you grew a human out of it I like to hope they wouldn't have to pay royalties on their own genome.
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  6. #5  
    Moderator Moderator Cogito Ergo Sum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by scheherazade View Post
    'Human genes cannot be patented, but...'

    It's the 'but' that could be of concern, depending on just how much or little tweaking is required to determine a 'synthetic' DNA and what applications the Bio-Tech companies intend.

    Molecular Genetics II - Genetic Engineering Course (Supplementary notes)Figures showing examples of cDNA synthesis

    cDNA Synthesis and Cloning

    In other words, you state that the line between natural genes and artificial genes (derived from cDNA) is too vague?
    "The only safe rule is to dispute only with those of your acquaintance of whom you know that they possess sufficient intelligence and self-respect not to advance absurdities; to appeal to reason and not to authority, and to listen to reason and yield to it; and, finally, to be willing to accept reason even from an opponent, and to be just enough to bear being proved to be in the wrong."

    ~ Arthur Schopenhauer, The Art of Being Right: 38 Ways to Win an Argument (1831), Stratagem XXXVIII.
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  7. #6  
    has lost interest seagypsy's Avatar
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    If someone is given cDNA, which they pay for, and they have a child passing it on to that child, will they get charged with copyright infringement if the child inherits the cDNA?
    Would it be considered pirated DNA?
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  8. #7  
    Moderator Moderator Cogito Ergo Sum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by seagypsy View Post
    If someone is given cDNA, which they pay for, and they have a child passing it on to that child, will they get charged with copyright infringement if the child inherits the cDNA?
    Would it be considered pirated DNA?

    Even though my knowledge of the US Copyright Laws is scant, it would be a likely yet absurd scenario that a human is sued by a company for having a cDNA gene in his/her genome.
    That would result in gigantically vast fine, considering the number of copies you possess.
    "The only safe rule is to dispute only with those of your acquaintance of whom you know that they possess sufficient intelligence and self-respect not to advance absurdities; to appeal to reason and not to authority, and to listen to reason and yield to it; and, finally, to be willing to accept reason even from an opponent, and to be just enough to bear being proved to be in the wrong."

    ~ Arthur Schopenhauer, The Art of Being Right: 38 Ways to Win an Argument (1831), Stratagem XXXVIII.
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  9. #8  
    Northern Horse Whisperer Moderator scheherazade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cogito Ergo Sum View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by scheherazade View Post
    'Human genes cannot be patented, but...'

    It's the 'but' that could be of concern, depending on just how much or little tweaking is required to determine a 'synthetic' DNA and what applications the Bio-Tech companies intend.

    Molecular Genetics II - Genetic Engineering Course (Supplementary notes)Figures showing examples of cDNA synthesis

    cDNA Synthesis and Cloning

    In other words, you state that the line between natural genes and artificial genes (derived from cDNA) is too vague?
    Precisely.

    I do not have the scientific background in genetics at this level (breaking new ground) but I do have some experience in policy analysis, contract negotiations and the use of language.

    In the food industry, as example, the term 'natural flavor' can be used for vanilla that does not come from the vanilla bean.

    Nonplant vanilla flavoring In the United States, castoreum, the exudate from the castor sacs of mature beavers, has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a food additive,[33] often referenced simply as a "natural flavoring" in the product's list of ingredients. It is commonly used in both food and beverages, especially as vanilla and raspberry flavoring.[34] It is also used to flavor some cigarettes and in perfume-making.
    Vanilla - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    When I observe how widely the term 'natural flavoring' is abused in the food industry, it certainly does set my hair on end that 'artificial genes' may be patented, given that the term 'artificial' has a very broad interpretation.

    I am not against genetic research but I do not think that corporate entities are the best vehicle for this task. The knowledge gained has broad potential societal ramifications and belongs to all mankind, IMO. (I am an idealist living in a capitalist society and there are many subjects on which I am of conflicted opinion. )
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  10. #9  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cogito Ergo Sum View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by seagypsy View Post
    If someone is given cDNA, which they pay for, and they have a child passing it on to that child, will they get charged with copyright infringement if the child inherits the cDNA?
    Would it be considered pirated DNA?

    Even though my knowledge of the US Copyright Laws is scant, it would be a likely yet absurd scenario that a human is sued by a company for having a cDNA gene in his/her genome.
    That would result in gigantically vast fine, considering the number of copies you possess.
    You would think that would be absurd, but that is the way the laws apply to plants and seeds. If you gather seeds from a plant with a patented genome and sow those seeds in your field without buying permission, they can take a sample of your crops to court and prove you used their patented genome and sue you.
    Some clocks are only right twice a day, but they are still right when they are right.
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  11. #10  
    Moderator Moderator Cogito Ergo Sum's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kojax View Post
    You would think that would be absurd, but that is the way the laws apply to plants and seeds. If you gather seeds from a plant with a patented genome and sow those seeds in your field without buying permission, they can take a sample of your crops to court and prove you used their patented genome and sue you.

    That is not only absurd, but plain illicit.
    Given the vague line between synthetic and natural genes and the financial and legal consequences of possessing a DNA sequence, this scenario can only lead to troubles.

    I can only hope that the US Supreme Court (or any other administrative body that takes those decisions) extends their decision, in order to include animal and plant genes.
    "The only safe rule is to dispute only with those of your acquaintance of whom you know that they possess sufficient intelligence and self-respect not to advance absurdities; to appeal to reason and not to authority, and to listen to reason and yield to it; and, finally, to be willing to accept reason even from an opponent, and to be just enough to bear being proved to be in the wrong."

    ~ Arthur Schopenhauer, The Art of Being Right: 38 Ways to Win an Argument (1831), Stratagem XXXVIII.
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  12. #11  
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    is the "but" a foreshadowing of corporations developing our young in the future?
    such as in "demolition man" or other sci-fi stories?
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  13. #12  
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    New science challenges the legal system. Its the nature of the beast.

    Genetic therapies have enormous potential to cure diseases, but the therapies aren't going to appear out of thin air. People develop medical techniques because they hope to make a profit doing so. Until now, intellectual property rights have been a large driver of research. Whether it makes sense or not to allow entities to patent gene sequences is a reasonable question, but take that intellectual property protection away and you reduce the incentive to develop genetic therapies. Perhaps we can find some other way to encourage research without giving away rights to our very chromosomes. But frankly, I want to see this research continue.
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  14. #13  
    has lost interest seagypsy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by danhanegan View Post
    New science challenges the legal system. Its the nature of the beast.

    Genetic therapies have enormous potential to cure diseases, but the therapies aren't going to appear out of thin air. People develop medical techniques because they hope to make a profit doing so.
    I think it is safe to say that many of the actual researchers in the medical field are a bit less selfishly motivated. The corporations that employ them however are another story. Many of those who discover cures for things would prefer that it be given away for free, but the reality is, if they give the medicine away for free they won't recover any of the costs it took to discover the cure. And stock holders don't care about actual cures as much as they want a return on investment. Very few people out there feel inclined to pay for everyone else's disease unless there is something in it for them. So in order to keep funding for research coming in, they have to promise a profit to those who have the funds to invest. Oddly, it is usually the people who can not afford to give money away that do it without expecting a return. for instance people who anonymously drop coins in buckets that will be forwarded to the cancer institute. But the wealthy that can literally spare a million bucks once in a while, won't unless they have some hope of gaining a profit from it. So they don't donate, they buy stock in the pharmaceutical companies.


    Quote Originally Posted by danhanegan View Post
    Until now, intellectual property rights have been a large driver of research. Whether it makes sense or not to allow entities to patent gene sequences is a reasonable question, but take that intellectual property protection away and you reduce the incentive to develop genetic therapies. Perhaps we can find some other way to encourage research without giving away rights to our very chromosomes. But frankly, I want to see this research continue.
    I think as it is, they are allowed a temporary patent on drug formulas so that the corporations can recover the costs of R&D plus earn some profit but after some time the patent expires and other companies are allowed to make their own version of the same drug, driving down prices and making generics available to the public. That's why new drugs are so damned expensive. There is no competition and the pharmaceutical companies only have a finite amount of time to take advantage of the monopoly and make as much profit as possible.

    But genes are another story. I don't see how they can continue to own part of your body. That would be like repossessing organ transplants if you use in violation of a license agreement.
    Speaking badly about people after they are gone and jumping on the bash the band wagon must do very well for a low self-esteem.
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  15. #14  
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    Quote Originally Posted by seagypsy View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by danhanegan View Post
    New science challenges the legal system. Its the nature of the beast.

    Genetic therapies have enormous potential to cure diseases, but the therapies aren't going to appear out of thin air. People develop medical techniques because they hope to make a profit doing so.
    I think it is safe to say that many of the actual researchers in the medical field are a bit less selfishly motivated. The corporations that employ them however are another story. Many of those who discover cures for things would prefer that it be given away for free, but the reality is, if they give the medicine away for free they won't recover any of the costs it took to discover the cure.
    And also, for all their talk of altruism, a lot of these researchers have PhD's and the accompanying student loans they need to be paying on. They can't afford to work for free, nor would most of them be willing to.

    I have a cousin who's doing government funded research on Alzheimer's Syndrome. I'm sure if you asked him about it in the abstract he'd say he's only motivated by the cause, and would do this work whether they paid him or not. However last time I spoke with him he was very excited about this Porsche owner's club he had become part of.

    He has his PhD in neurobiology. He deserves to be making a lot of money. But that money's going to have to come from somewhere, right?
    Some clocks are only right twice a day, but they are still right when they are right.
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  16. #15  
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    There is still human bias, you see. 'They are less selfishly motivated' still applies. It's not all black and white where it is either pure selfish gain or altruism.
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