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4-Patents: NHGRI director attacks companies for patentingnon-coding DNA

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TITLE:  At Genetics Meeting, Collins Reportedly Faults Firm for Patenting
        Non-Coding DNA; Sequence the Kangaroo?
SOURCE: GenomeWeb, USA
DATE:   Jul 8, 2003

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At Genetics Meeting, Collins Reportedly Faults Firm for Patenting Non-
Coding DNA; Sequence the Kangaroo?

NEW YORK, July 8 - In his opening address Monday to the XIX International
Congress of Genetics in Melbourne, Australia, NHGRI director Francis
Collins reportedly attacked an Australian firm that patented non-coding DNA.

Collins said that the firm, Genetic Technologies, had broken with a
scientific tradition to provide free access to patented materials to
academics conducting basic research, the Sydney Morning Herald reported
today. Genetic Technologies charges research institutes $1000 to use its
technology and information related to non-coding DNA, the report said.

These remarks come less than two weeks after the US Supreme Court refused
to hear a case in which a former Duke University professor sued the
University for allegedly violating patents on laser equipment he invented
by allowing researchers in the lab he left to continue using the laser.
The suit is regarded by some as a test case on the continued validity of
the commonly held view that academic researchers can use patented
inventions without a license as long as it is for research use, and the
Supreme Court's remanding of the case to lower Federal court allows the
case to go forward.

Collins also said that the International HapMap project planned to
restrict access to the Haplotype database to only those companies that
agreed to allow academic researchers to use information that the firms
had obtained through use of the database, according to the Sydney Morning

The Congress, which had the subtitle "Genomes: The Linkage to Life," drew
nearly 3,000 delegates including the usual collection of life sciences
luminaries to the city's shores: Collins shared top billing with 2002
Nobel Prize winner Sydney Brenner, as well as David Botstein, the new
director of the Lewis-Sigler Center for Integrative Genomics at
Princeton, who was awarded the $150,000 Genetics Prize at the conference.

Among Monday's slate of speakers was native Australian Richard Gibbs, of
the Baylor College of Medicine Human Genome Sequencing Center, who
discussed how his lab is gearing up to do large-scale genotyping for the
International HapMap project, through developing, among other things, a
new software approach for whole genome assembly.

Gane Ka-Shu Wong of the University of Washington Genome Center also
presented results of a whole genome comparison of japonica and indica
rice genomes that enabled identification of SNPs. They found that the
rate of SNPs varied throughout the genomes, with some areas having as
many as six SNPs per kb and other stretches being "SNP deserts," with a
few megabases containing no SNPs at all. Wong said these desert areas are
evidence of adaptive selection in these areas. "This result has wide
implications, since it is believed that much the same genes are involved
in all domesticated crops," Wong wrote in an abstract of the talk.

On Tuesday, Yoshihide Hayashizaki of the RIKEN genome Exploration
Research Group discussed his group's work to assemble the two-million
cDNA clone Riken mouse genome encyclopedia that has 33,409 unique
sequences and over 18,415 defined protein-coding genes.

He also suggested that DNA clones or PCR products be distributed through
a method he called the "DNA book," in which these chemicals would be
printed directly onto pages of water-soluble paper, and bound into books.

The 1,400 speakers at the congress this week are scheduled to address
topics ranging from comparative farm animal genomics to honey bee
sociogenomics, to a talk entitled "Sex, Genes, and Chromosomes - and
Weird Australian Animals."

In this latter address, to be given Thursday, Jennifer Marshall Graves of
the Australian National University in Canberra is planning to announce
the kick-off (or perhaps, hop-off), of the Center of Kangaroo Genomics,
according to Australian press reports. The center is planning to lobby
the NIH for $80 million so it can sequence the Kangaroo's genome,
Australian newspaper The Age reported today. The species of kangaroo that
Graves' group wants to sequence, the report said, is the tammar wallaby.


European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

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