Or your genes, to put it more accurately. Ben Goldacre reports on the 'absurd' habit of patenting human genes: "A study from 2005 found that about a fifth of all the 23,688 genes in the human genome – the code that makes up you — have already been patented." Worrying. More practically, it has a 'chilling effect' on scientists trying to conduct research on patented genes, who risk being sued if they don't have the patent holder's permission.


I'm about as confused as most of the people commenting. How can you hold a patent over something that you did not invent or create yourself?

Does this prove there is no God? Because if I was him/her/it, I'd be suing the pants off these people. Or, at the very least, strike down upon them with great vengence and furious anger.


I dont know what im doing!

I shouldn't of bothered!

I know this comment is a little late to your blog guys, but I know something about this.There was this guy callled Chakrabarty who invented this micro organism in the 80s for General Electric. This organism broke down crude oil, and oil spills more importantly. I mean it's gonna make a fortune for this guy, but under strict patent law you could not patent anything that was a living organism; bummer right! So he and all of General Electric's money goes to court to fight it out with the Patent office. He loses once, but then goes up against this Diamond fella, Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks in their appeal and wins.

Now there's a problem. A bunch of rich Americans start patenting anything that they can grow on a molecular scaffold in the hope that one day it may become the cure for cancer, heart disease or something closer to my own heart, baldness. And it all has to be passed under the stare decisis (precedent) ruling of Chakrabarty.

The courts later on - after the horse had bolted, but not before it had been patented -  made new legislation, that to patent any living organism it must first have a use. Meaning that the common practice of hundreds of companies with thousands of patented biological designs could not just make something in the hope that one day it would become a panacea for the worlds ills.

But then, comes Craig Venter, maverick scientist who starts a race against the American goverment to be the first to map the human genome. And wins!

So there you have it (in lay terms) why the medical community has to avoid certain avenues of medical exploration. It is because of hefty patent payments to industrious, innovative, Americans.


It's the new enclosures.

I saw this mentioned in the New Scientist leader earlier (can't link to the leader as I was reading it in the shop - sorry Smiths!).

"By declaring that the genes can't be patented because they are essentially products of nature rather than inventions, the US District Court for the Southern District of New York state has effectively cast doubt on whether patents on 2000 other human genes - around 20 per cent of the total - are valid"


Hey John, unfortunately the ruling was made in a district court and only on the gene patents BRCA1 and BRCA2. This means that the decision - according to Andrew Pollack in the NYT:

"does not apply to gene patents other than the ones it considered, and its value as precedent for other courts is limited."

Nature 1 Biotechnology 0 ?

20% of you has been patented