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Can Someone Patent Human Genes?

Human genes are regularly patented: in fact, about 20% of the entire human genome is composed of patented sequences, and over 40,000 patents were granted on genes between the 1970s and 2011. Once a gene sequence is patented, it is considered the intellectual property of the company (or person) holding the patent, and it can legally require other companies or research labs to stop working with that sequence or pay a licensing fee in order to do so.

More about genes and patenting:

  • The concept of gene patenting is controversial. Proponents argue that it will encourage researchers to focus on new areas and avoid duplicating work as well as giving companies incentives to fund genetic research. Detractors, on the other hand, say that it stifles research by controlling information and making it prohibitively expensive to license genes.

  • To patent a genetic sequence, a company must isolate it or alter it and show that it has a specific purpose, like being useful for diagnosing a disease.

  • The human genome consists of around 3 billion base pairs of Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) and contains an estimated 20,000 to 25,000 genes.

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Discuss this Article

anon334203
Post 5

Research Monsanto Corporation and gene patents. I hate it too, but this has been going on for a long time.

anon331660
Post 4

Humans should start focusing way more on scientific research, because we would discover much more if we put all this money and patents aside and research more.

anon330006
Post 2

Surely it would not be legal to patent a gene sequence. How can you patent something you have not created?

anon330004
Post 1

That really stinks because patenting them slows down the scientific progress. Sigh, always money and profit getting in the way.

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