Letter: Encouraging genetic research

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The Independent Online
Sir: It is wrong to claim that there is a hidden loophole in the proposed European biotechnology directive which would allow "new rights over human genes" (report, 27 August). There is already legislation in place within the European Patents Convention which allows patenting of genes if they have been isolated from the body or produced by a technical process and if the normal criteria of patentability can be demonstrated.

Rather than prevent scientific research, as you suggest, the proposed directive will actually encourage it. The benefit of the patent system is that the inventor must publish sufficient detail to enable fellow researchers to undertake their own research.

The intention of the directive will be to harmonise legislation on patents across Europe. It will help British industry, which already leads Europe in the field of biotechnology, to earn a fair reward from its search for new medicines for many as yet unconquered diseases and bring hope to many millions of patients.

The directive has been discussed at length within six expert committees of the European Parliament, and more than 450 amendments have been debated for more than a year before the recent EU plenary vote - hardly a process in which clauses have been buried as you describe.

Professor TREVOR M JONES

Director-General

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry

London SW1

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