Gene Cartels
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Gene Cartels

Biotech Patents in the Age of Free Trade

Luigi Palombi

Starting with the 13th century, this book explores how patents have been used as an economic protectionist tool, developing and evolving to the point where thousands of patents have been ultimately granted not over inventions, but over isolated or purified biological materials. DNA, invented by no man and once thought to be ‘free to all men and reserved exclusively to none’, has become cartelised in the hands of multinational corporations. The author questions whether the continuing grant of patents can be justified when they are now used to suppress, rather than promote, research and development in the life sciences.
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Chapter 6: The Isolation Contrivance

Luigi Palombi


[W]hen I isolate the DNA sequence from its natural environment, and when I separate the exons from the introns . . . I have made an invention, since I have isolated via a reproducible technical process the DNA sequence from the human body, and I have made a selection in the sequence, i.e., I have selected those parts of the sequence I am interested in. I will basically also copy that sequence, and then I have made cDNA, which does not occur as such in nature. All these elements make the DNA sequence I have isolated not a mere discovery but an invention, which provides a teaching to methodical action. The isolated sequence is not a product of nature, but a product derived from nature. Sven Bostyn, European Patent Agent, 20021 In the members’ view, it cannot be said with any reasonableness that a sequence or partial sequence of a gene ceases to be part of the human body merely because an identical copy of the sequence is isolated from or produced outside of the human body. The Danish Council of Bioethics, 2004 1873 was a significant year for patent law. Not only was the first international patent meeting held but Louis Pasteur,2 the most famous microbiologist of the day, was granted two US patents over the production of beer. The first, US 135,245, was granted on 28 January 1873. Entitled ‘Improvement in Brewing Beer and Ale’, in one and a half pages it provided details of a process...

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