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gene patenting

Saturday 17 February 2007


A study published in Nature Biotechnology states that while patent offices in Europe and in Japan have “only granted between 3 percent and 5 percent of patent applications,” the US is granting “far more of these patents.”

A study shows that around 20 percent of all known human genes have been patented. Those data were published by MIT researchers Fiona Murray and Kyle Jensen in Science in 2005. Using a bioinformatic model to compare patented nucleotide sequences to the human genome, Murray and Jensen found at the time that 4,382 of the 23,688 genes stored in the National Center for Biotechnology Information’s database have been patented. Of those patents, 63 percent are owned by private companies.
The researchers also found that “some genes have up to 20 patents asserting rights to various gene uses and manifestations,” including diagnostics, SNPs, and cell lines.


A bill introduced in February 2007 in the US House of Representatives seeks to eliminate the practice of gene patenting.

The Genomic Research and Accessibility Act proposes to add wording to existing US patent legal code that would prohibit the patenting of human “genetic material.” It would not apply to patents issued before the act was passed.

The Genomic Research and Accessibility Act was introduced by Xavier Becerra, a Democrat from California, and Dave Weldon, a Republican from Florida.