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Taq patent

Eivind Hovig ehovig at radium.uio.no
Mon Jan 31 17:04:45 EST 2000

In article <0a3DzhAWqVl4EAWN at genesys.demon.co.uk>, "Dr. Duncan Clark"
<Duncan at genesys.demon.co.uk> wrote:

> In article <ehovig-3101000239030001 at pcdnr83.uio.no>, Eivind Hovig
> <ehovig at radium.uio.no> writes
> >In article <20000125091147.26423.qmail at web3403.mail.yahoo.com>,
> >yilao at yahoo.com.cn (=?gb2312?q?sam=20wayne?=) wrote:
> >
> >> What will happen to the scientists (?) who cooked and
> >> massaged their data for the Taq patent?
> >> I mean scientifically, in addition to anything the
> >> court will dish out accordingly.
> >> Anything like this took place before?
> >
> >
> >I wonder why the Nobel price winner in chemistry of 1993, Kary B. Mullis,
> >is not implemented in the fraud, as he worked at Cetus in the same period,
> >and published with them on the subject matter (Science 1988 Jan
> >29;239(4839):487-91 -Primer-directed enzymatic amplification of DNA with a
> >thermostable DNA polymerase.) Anybody with worthwhile opinions?
> >
> Because the alleged fraud was in a patent application using results of
> experiments solely by the applicants, of which Kary Mullis was not one.
> Guilt by association is not justified.  

I am not a lawyer, but you use the term "alleged". As a court of law has
found them guilty, I would tend to put more emphasis than "alleged" on the
situation? Especially given the legal resources Roche have available. I
agree that guilt by association is not justified. But on the other hand,
if the ruling stands, a number of people in Cetus have been found guilty
of fraudulent behavior, and the company in which the Nobel laureate worked
at the time has obtained a rather large blemish, dont you think? And there
can be no doubt that Mullis was heavily involved in this research in this

> I think this is possibly being blown up out of all proportion. If
> someone was to go through anyone's lab books of 10-20 years ago could
> they remember the exact circumstances about what and why they did such
> and such an experiment. You must also remember that the final patent
> application evolved out of previous applications over a number of years
> with umpteen changes over time including applicants etc. 

I think I tend to disagree with you here, as we are talking of a company
that I suppose would need to follow GMP/GLP. And given the fact that we
are talking enourmous amounts of money, and that even at that time this
should be anticipated. 

> As Roche is appealing (and if they lose that there is yet another higher
> court to appeal to), it will take years to get a final decision,
> possibly even after the patent has expired.    

So much for value of the american judicial system in patent cases, I would
argue. And it does not make the situation prettier.

> Without PCR and it's spin off's e.g. cycle sequencing, the genome would
> be many many years off completion and the techniques we take for granted
> would not exist.

Or to look at it another way: A 1 liter bacterial culture, using
purification procedures that take one to two days, one gets approximately
1 million (!) units of Taq, ore more. Looking at it like this, from an
academic institution, simply means that vast governmental funds have been
reallocated to private biotech due to the protection by the patent and its
superprofit harvesting. And you are also saying that the spinoff
inventions/discoveries would not have been possible without the patent. I
think you should reconsider that statement, not least as you make no
effort to argue that academia could not have produced the same within a
short time of the patent.

Eivind Hovig

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