Genetics, patents, careers

lehn at facstaff.wisc.edu lehn at facstaff.wisc.edu
Thu Jun 9 11:35:04 EST 1994


In article <2t66fp$pf0 at apakabar.cc.columbia.edu>, <dan at cubsps.bio.columbia.edu> writes:
> Path: 
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> From: dan at cubsps.bio.columbia.edu (Dan Zabetakis)

>   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. 

All genes may be sequenced but, as the complete sequencing of the
yeast chromosomes is revealing, the function of the majority
of the genes is still unknown.  It takes quite a bit of biochemistry
in order to figure out just what a given gene does.  Getting the
complete nucleotide sequence of an organism tells us no more about
an organism than a dictionary tells us about literature.

>   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).

Some of the original patent recipients for genes thought that the
patent would give them the rights to all uses or potential uses
of the gene.  These claims have not fared well when challenged.
To be protected by the patent you have to spell out, in detail,
what uses are to be covered.  

>   It is probably good, but I think inevitable that biology departments
> will shrink. 

The future is in "hard core" biochemistry.  What will probably
happen, and is happening, is that departments will tend to
consolidate.  The boundaries between biology (molecular biology),
physiology, immunology, histology, embryology, etc. are becomming
so blurred that it makes little sense to define them as separate
disciplines.



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