In June 2000, the publicly funded Human Genome Project (HGP) and the private firm Celera Genomics Inc. announced that they had completed sequencing the human genome. This unprecedented accomplishment is expected to enable doctors to diagnose, treat and even prevent numerous genetic diseases. As these two entities worked on sequencing the human genome, there was also a separate and less publicized race to patent as many human genes as possible.
The patenting issue gained some attention when President Bill Clinton and Prime Minster Tony Blair jointly called for the release of raw genetic data into the public domain (CQ 405). I will argue in this paper that the aggressive competition among biotechnology firms to patent genes is impeding development being made in biomedical sector. The main problem with patenting genes is that companies are filing patents for strands of DNA they discover without fully knowing their functions (Kluger 51). The current attitude in the biotechnology sector seems to be, to gain exclusive access to as much of the human genome as possible first and then figure out the functions of the genes later. Despite the questionable attitude in the biotechnology sector, the current patent laws are allowing companies to continue with their practices. The patents laws are not able to deal with new complications that arise of from patenting genes. As I will argue in this paper, there is a pressing need to modify these laws to permit the HGP and its consequences to benefit everyone rather than lining the pockets of few corporations.
Patents have always represented a mutually beneficial a relationship between inventor and public. The inventor gets 17 years of basic monopoly on his invention so that he ...
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...while not impeding progress in bio-medical technology.
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Regalado, Antonio, The Great Gene Grab, Technology Review, Cambridge Mass. 1998 v 103 Sept/Oct 2000
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The more we know about genetics and the building blocks of life the closer we get to being capable of cloning a human. The study of chromosomes and DNA strains has been going on for years. In 1990, the Unites States Government founded the Human Genome Project (HGP). This program was to research and study the estimated 80,000 human genes and determine the sequences of 3 billion DNA molecules. Knowing and being able to examine each sequence could change how humans respond to diseases, viruses, and toxins common to everyday life. With the technology of today the HGP expects to have a blueprint of all human DNA sequences by the spring of 2000. This accomplishment, even though not cloning, presents other new issues for individuals and society. For this reason the Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications (ELSI) was brought in to identify and address these issues. They operate to secure the individuals rights to those who contribute DNA samples for studies. The ELSI, being the biggest bioethics program, has to decide on important factors when an individual’s personal DNA is calculated. Such factors would include; who would have access to the information, who controls and protects the information and when to use it? Along with these concerns, the ESLI tries to prepare for the estimated impacts that genetic advances could be responsible for in the near future. The availability of such information is becoming to broad and one needs to be concerned where society is going with it.
People are hesitant about genetic research for several reasons; most of them centered around the invasion of their privacy and the negative effects it could have on their lives were the information to be displayed publically. There’s also the sticky question of ownership when it comes to genetic material; does it belong to the patient being tested, or the scientists who discovers what’s being tested in the first place? Although steps have been taken via the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act to prevent a patient’s information from being accessed without their permission, there is still no law that will allow someone to put a patent on genetic material within a human body. (“21st-Century Genetics.” The New Genetics, 2010) Looking at a commonly known example, the Black Death, also known as bubonic plague, remains to be one of the worst cases of human casualty due to illness. The people of the 14th Century had very little knowledge of the inner workings of the human body and therefore chalked ...
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