Leading Article: A welcome step to genetic openness
Thursday 15 April 1999
Ten large drug companies and five leading genetics research centres have announced that they will publish their findings on single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). SNPs are the genetic differences that may offer a clue, for example, to why some people develop lung cancer while others can smoke 20 cigarettes a day into their nineties.
The discovery of SNPs is a profitable business. Patents on the locations of these so-called genetic signposts - and the diseases to which they are linked - can lead to a sparkling income for the discoverer. Such research is often undertaken by small firms that hope to sell patent rights to larger firms, which then develop the drugs that take advantage of these discoveries. The big drug companies fear that the smaller firms can restrict their exploration of this area of commercial activity, and want to publish SNP maps to prevent anyone from patenting them.
Centres of medical excellence want to publish the locations of these signposts on the genes so that they can pursue their research without having to pay crippling fees to research companies.
It is a sign of the future importance of medical genetics that drug companies, notoriously secretive, are prepared to share information. They feel that there is more to gain from open access to data than there is to lose by sharing their knowledge with competitors.
Once the information is freely available, the large pharmaceutical companies can set about doing what they are best at - ie developing and marketing medicines.
The Human Genome Project is an exception to the rule of the excellence of patenting. Governments should have recognised this fact some time ago and international treaties should have established the area as an endeavour that is outside the normal rules. It is a welcome action, if self-interested on the part of the large companies, to make gene know-how free for all.
Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated
tvAn expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle
artLee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Paris attacks: Do not call Charlie Hebdo killers 'terrorists', BBC says
- 2 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 3 UK weather: Snow to fall in the coming week with sub-zero temperatures to last until early February
- 4 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 5 The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
Mr Selfridge series 3: Actress Kara Tointon says 'we're starting to see his demise'
Benedict Cumberbatch says Hollywood is better for black British actors
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
V&A removes depiction of Prophet Mohamed from website amid 'severe security alert'
Game of Thrones season 5: IMAX releases new trailer with first look footage of Tyrion Lannister
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
George Galloway condemns 'racist, Islamophobic, hypocritical rag' Charlie Hebdo at freedom of speech rally
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks