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.
Review: A panoramic account of the hacking scandalbooks
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Russell Brand accuses FOX News anchor Sean Hannity of terrorism after aggressive Israel-Gaza debate
- 2 Pope Francis issues top 10 tips for happiness – including don’t try to convert other people
- 3 Disney heiress Abigail disowns her share of family profits in West Bank company
- 4 The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
- 5 Now diplomacy has failed, boycotting Israel might be the only way we can protect the people of Gaza
Game of Thrones actress begs for 'other princess work' after Myrcella Baratheon part is recast
The Walking Dead season 5 will see deaths of 'favourite characters', hints Andrew Lincoln
Palestinian artists transform smoke-filled Gaza into symbol of resistance
Star Wars 7: Plot details 'leak', with sequel's opening sequence and premise revealed
Big Bang Theory: Filming delayed by contract disputes over actors' pay
The secret report that helps Israel hide facts
Land for gas: Merkel and Putin discussed secret deal could end Ukraine crisis
Woman and two children killed by mob in riots over 'blasphemous' Facebook post in Pakistan
Richard Dawkins tweets: 'Date rape is bad, stranger rape is worse'
Putin is 'thuggish, dishonest and reckless', says British ambassador to US
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – Britain as others see us
- < Previous
- Next >