Will the real owner please stand up?
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
Who do these business types who have sneaked into our scientific
research community think they are?
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
New Haven, CT 06511
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