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4-Patents: Scripps Research Institute received patent on all GE-antibody plants



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TITLE:  'Pharming' patent boosts prospects for herpes-fighting corn plants
SOURCE: Pioneer Press, USA, by Paul elias, posted at Twin Cities
        http://www.twincities.com/mld/twincities/business/3631179.htm
DATE:   July 10, 2002

------------------ archive: http://www.gene.ch/genet.html ------------------


'Pharming' patent boosts prospects for herpes-fighting corn plants

SAN FRANCISCO - A company growing corn spliced with a herpes-fighting human 
gene received broad and exclusive commercial rights to "molecular pharming" 
technology Tuesday when its academic partner was granted a patent.

Several biotechnology companies and research labs are racing to develop 
ways to grow drugs in crops such as corn, tobacco and rice by splicing 
human genes that produce disease-fighting proteins in the plants' DNA.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office granted The Scripps Research 
Institute a patent that appears to give the La Jolla research lab and 
exclusive control to some of the most promising proteins - called 
antibodies - grown in all plants.

"It appears to be a very broad patent for all antibodies grown in all 
plants," said Lisa Haile, a San Diego patent attorney. "It's pretty 
amazing."

San Diego-based Epicyte Pharmaceutical Inc. holds exclusive commercial 
rights to the patent. The company's co-founders, Mitch Hein and Andrew 
Hiatt are listed as the patent's inventors and developed most of the 
technology while working at Scripps.

"It benefits Scripps and benefits the company," said Scripps spokeswoman 
Robin Clark.

The company and its corporate partner, Dow Chemical Co., hope to extract 
the herpes-fighting antibody from the corn and turn it into a topical gel. 
The company hopes to begin testing the gel on people sometime next year.

About 45 million Americans are afflicted with some type of herpes virus.

But the patent and the technology it covers have drawn the ire of a wide 
range of critics, who argue the plants may pose unforeseen environmental 
and health problems while others oppose the patenting of biological 
processes.

"This is one more clear example of the dividing up of the human body into 
inventions and intellectual property, which is being controlled by a few 
life science companies," said Jeremy Rifkin, a prominent anti-biotechnology 
author.



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