Letter: Patents and cures for genetic disease

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The Independent Online
Sir: The Genetic Interest Group has not, does not and will not advocate the patenting of naturally occurring gene sequences. What we have been trying to achieve through our intervention in the European Parliament is a climate for investment in cures for genetic disease.

Your article is a distortion, not only of the draft directive's proposal, but also of the position that has been taken by the Genetic Interest Group and many other organisations.

What in fact we have been advocating is that gene sequences, when they form part of a diagnostic or therapeutic product and when they fulfil the other requirements of patentability, should potentially be patentable. In taking this approach we have been anxious to ensure that research funded by charities is protected, that the potential for diagnosis and treatment arising from this research is maximised and that those affected by currently incurable genetic disorders are able to have the best chance of benefiting from scientific progress in understanding the basic biology underlying their disease.

It is a fact that research is exempted under European patent law. It is a fact that the directive specifically excludes the patenting of naturally occurring gene sequences. It is a fact that the directive introduces valuable safeguards that will prevent unethical applications of genetic data and it is a fact that the directive introduces safeguards for animals used in research.

These are important developments that should be, and will be, welcomed by all who wish to see genetic disease finally vanquished.

ALASTAIR KENT

Director

Genetic Interest Group

London EC1

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