Genetics, patents, careers

Dan Zabetakis dan at cubsps.bio.columbia.edu
Wed Jun 8 23:40:25 EST 1994


In article <2t5bif$2mr at nexus.uiowa.edu>,
Greg Chapman <zubla at forte.shc.uiowa.edu> 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.

DanZ


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