Genetics, patents, careers

Michael Benedik bchs1b at Elroy.UH.EDU
Thu Jun 9 11:26:23 EST 1994

In article <2t66fp$pf0 at>, dan at (Dan Zabetakis) writes:
>In article <2t5bif$2mr at>,
>Greg Chapman <zubla at> wrote:
>>So, in the future will researchers be able to take out patents on
>>new processes, or will all such things be sewn up and researchers
>>limited to small research stipends?  Is time a part of this issue
>>or is it already too late?
>  All IMHO, and I'm sure many people will violently disagree.
>  Within the career of the current junior faculty, all genes will be
>sequenced for the main research orgamisms. After that, I think grants
>will be very hard to get. There will be no easy projects to clone and 
>sequence, or to generate mutants in known and interesting genes. Also,
>each gene generates at least one, and often several post-docs who want to
>set up labs of thier own. As a friend recently said "If there are four
>labs working on a specific sub-field, two of them are probably unneccesary".
>The process where each proffesor generates 4 grad students and 3 post-docs
>who all want labs can't be continued.
>  If the patents on genes is taken seriously, then there is almost no
>hope for independant biological research. Most molecular biology would
>then have to be carried out by private companies who would spend a great
>deal of time sueing each other (and buying each other).
>  It is probably good, but I think inevitable that biology departments
>will shrink. I think they will also become again more diverse as they
>again take up thier true role of educating undergrads in biology.
>  I think biology departments were tempted by the easy grants given for
>mutant screens and cloning. Everyone clones. Columbia for example has
>no commitment at all to teaching (in the bio department) evolution,
>ecology, population biology, organismic biology, *anything* about
>plants, immunology, or development. 
>  The large labs needed for junior faculty to get tenure through rapid
>publication are not sustainable. I think this should have been clear for
>a long time. I do not think that any faculty advisor could with a good
>conscience recommend graduate school to talented undergraduates.

Obviously the days of just cloning and sequencing genes will soon be over
(when genomes are sequenced) and then everyone can get back to doing
real experiments where we learn about how, what these genes do and
how organisms, cells, development etc work. 

I think the patents are going to be irrelevent, at least to academics. If
you remember, the entire technique of gene cloning was patented, well that
certainly hasn't stopped most of us from doing it. Many expression vectors
including the Tac promoter have been patented (and I assume many others)
but that hasn't stopped us from using them. So don't get hung up
on patents. They just won't matter to most of us.

 Michael Benedik				INTERNET: Benedik at
 Dept. of Biochemical & Biophysical Sciences	
 University of Houston				BITNET: Benedik at uhou

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