Will the real owner please stand up?

Una Smith smith-una at yale.edu
Thu Feb 4 19:59:31 EST 1993

Verbatim from the Letters section (page 441) of the 22 January 1993
issue of Science (vol 259):

	As the discoverer of _Thermus aquaticus_ (1), the organism
	that is the source of Taq polymerase, I continue to be
	amazed at what has happened to our science as the result of
	the "biotechnology" revolution.  I refer specifically to the
	4 December News & Comment article by Peter Aldhous (p. 1572)
	stating that Hoffmann--La Roche is taking to court companies
	who produce and sell this enzyme for use in the polymerase
	chain reaction (PCR).  As I understand it, Cetus took an
	organism that I freely deposited in the American Type Culture
	Collection, isolated an enzyme from this organism, and sold
	the patent to Roche, who now claims a royalty on every use of
	this enzyme for a particular laboratory procedure.  I am not
	concerned about the money involved, but with how such practices
	(legitimate or not), stifle the development of scientific
	research.  Where would biology and medicine be today if Walther
	and Fannie Hesse had patented the use of agar in the plate
	culture technique that Robert Koch developed in 1882?  Agar is
	a natural product, like Taq polymerase, and the plate culture
	technique is a laboratory procedure, like PCR.  The agar plate
	technique revolutionized medicine in a manner analogous to the
	PCR method.

	Who do these business types who have sneaked into our scientific
	research community think they are?

						Thomas Brock
				701 Ridge Street, Madison, WI  53705


	1.  T.D. Brock and H. Freeze, J. Bacteriol. 98, 289 (1969).

I have attempted to type this letter verbatim from the journal.  Any
errors in transfer are unintentional, but my responsibility nonetheless.

And I can not resist pointing out in the same issue an item in the
News & Comment section titled "Will the Real Journal Please Stand Up?"


      Una Smith      Biology Department       smith-una at yale.edu
                     Yale University
                     New Haven, CT  06511

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