Books written by Ray Sullivan

Friday, 14 June 2013

No Genetic Patents

It's official - you're unique and more importantly, your individual design cannot be patented.  Bad news for you if you intended selling your genome for research - after all, from where I'm sitting you are obviously a fabulous example of the human species.  Not too sure about that spot, but as that's only just appeared it shouldn't affect your marketability.

However if you're not in the market for selling off your genome then it's good news.

You see, there was this race about ten years ago, where private industry rushed headlong to map the human genome with the intention of patenting the results and then licensing them to pharmaceutical companies looking for cures for ailments.  For cures, read cash-cows.

Now it's easy to be cynical about the pharma industry - they are notorious for charging outrageous amounts of money for drugs that they developed years earlier.  But on the way to developing those drugs they usually spend an inordinate amount of time and energy in developing a raft of chemical combinations that have no ultimate benefit to the human race, and in many cases are likely to make us all less likely to survive if we take them than without.  The cost of that research has to be covered somewhere.  And the overheads on pharma research are huge - the documentation trail itself is enough to give you a headache.  They've got a drug or two for that complaint, by the way, but as they are all pretty much out of patent you can buy generic copies for coppers.

Anyway, there was a race and the other team was a consortium of international scientists that worked hard to map the human genome first, with the intention of gifting the human race its own genetic code for free.  They succeeded, which given the resources of the pharma industry is amazing.  However attempts have been made to patent chunks of the human genome and there's been a series of long running court cases to determine ownership of the human genome.  No less than the US Supreme Court believes we, humans that is, own our own genome.

I think you can still sell your own, if you like, but you'll probably have to map it first.  Me, I can sketch a route to the pub, but a full genome is likely to be unsuccessful in my hands, so I'll stick to selling eBooks instead.  It'll probably be just as successful as hawking my hand drawn map of my genome, but at least I've proof read them.

If you think the pharma industry taking your genome to the highest court to try and claim ownership of what is essentially you is outrageous, and many well might, then you may want to compare that to an alternative theory behind the Human Genome Project as chronicled in my second novel, The Journeymen.

It's quite possible that you might decide pure pharma greed is the true reason after reading the book.


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