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Ensure open access to genetic data to protect innovation

George, A. (2013) Ensure open access to genetic data to protect innovation. The Conversation, 10 May 2013 .

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Public investment in the Human Genome Project was expected to deliver a global public good that would help generate scientific breakthroughs. But open access to our genetic blueprint is a precondition to achieving this and gene patenting – where companies have monopoly rights over genetic material – threatens to undermine it.

Allowing patents that capture categories of unique genomic DNA damages the principle of open access. A related constraint – and one that can impact research and diagnostics – is the “ownership” of genetic samples from patients.

The potential and richness of this data could hold the key to developing cures, but opportunities are lost if this data is privatised or made inaccessible in some other way.

It’s difficult to find useful data on the number and scope of gene patents but a recent report from Weill Cornell Medical College in the United States delivers an interesting analysis. It estimates that almost all the human genome has been claimed through a series of complex and overlapping patents.

Item Type: Non-refereed Article
Publisher: The Conversation Media Group
Copyright: The Author
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