Making your own TAQ polymerase: Issues?

Eric Anderson e-anderson at
Tue Jun 17 13:10:07 EST 1997

In article <dspencer-ya02408000R1606971850060001 at News.Dal.Ca>,
dspencer at (David F. Spencer) wrote:

> In article <5nmkge$sb5 at bubba.NMSU.Edu>, dkim at (D. KIM) wrote:
> > Hello:
> > 
> > I have read methods published in Nucleic Acids Research and in
> > BioTechniques for preparing Taq polymerase produced by recombinant E.
> > coli.  I would like to try this out, and the plasmid is available via
> > ATCC.
> > 
> > I do not know what are the legal issues involved in producing our own Taq
> > for research purposes (as a PCR reagent).  Is this illegal?  Would I have
> > to purchase some kind of license from Hoffman-LaRoche?  Or, could it be
> > done freely as long as it is not sold?
> > 
> > Also, it is known that DNA Pol I-type polymerases, such as Taq, have a
> > strong bias against ddNTPs, making them problematic for cycle sequencing.
> > However, a single amino acid change (switch a Phe for Tyr) will remove
> > this bias.  I would like to know if I would be allowed to modify the gene
> > for Taq polymerase by site-directed mutagenesis (and maybe remove the
> > 5'-3' exonuclease, while I am at it) to make my own thermo-sequenase-like
> > enzyme?  Again, is this a legal problem?
> This is a very interesting query and one which I began researching about
a month
> ago.  First, you might like to go to Promega's web site to get the details of 
> their legal challenge of Hoffmann-La Roche's patent (which they
"inherited" from
> Cetus) for TAQ holopolymerase.
> In the US, apparently an act of Congress about a hundred years ago
exempted all 
> _government_ labs from claims of patent infringement and I believe this is 
> actually a condition of obtaining a patent in the US. So anyone at, say,
> NIH can 
> make TAQ (or anything else) without concern. The exemption for not-for-profit 
> labs (universities, hospitals) is not as solid although it had been generally 
> honoured until Hoffmann-La Roche, in their ongoing battle with Promega,
> to publically name hundreds of university/hospital-based scientists whom they 
> claim used unlicensed TAQ. Their justification is that any lab that
> competes for 
> research grants is in the _business_ of doing scientific research and
thus not 
> exempt by traditional interpretations; nice touch, what? This suggests
that if 
> your lab is in your garage or basement and you pay for your research out of
> your 
> own pocket then you can make TAQ for your own use and H-LaR wouldn't take
> you to 
> court.  I did hear of a challenge H-LaR mounted against a lab at NC
State that 
> was making its own TAQ [this may have been in Science or Nature], but I've
> never 
> heard the final outcome of that.

it is my understanding (and i was wrong once before in my life so it
_could_ happen again!) that H-LaR decided that suing every molbio lab in
the world was a pretty poor PR strategy so they decided to go after the
manufacturers instead of the users and dropped suits against individual


Eric C. Anderson
Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research 
Dept. of Cell Biology and Genetics
Lab: (212) 639-2977
Fax: (212) 717-3298
e-anderson at

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