SF meets real life: US Government issues patents on human genes

GenesThis could be Science Fiction, but it isn’t. For the last twenty years, the US patent office has been issuing patents on human gene sequences. The ACLU sees this as a problem because:

… patent holders own the exclusive rights to those genetic sequences, their usage, and their chemical composition. Anyone who makes or uses a patented gene without permission of the patent holder – whether it be for commercial or noncommercial purposes – is committing patent infringement and can be sued by the patent holder for such infringement.

Lest you think this is for manufactured structures only, the patents includes such naturally occurring genes for asthma, colon cancer, Alzheimer’s. Those science-fictionally minded of you see where this could lead.

The ACLU goes on to report:

Last week, the New York Times reported that a Stanford engineer has developed a new technology to sequence the entire human genome for less than $50,000. This is a remarkable reduction from the $20 million estimate of three years ago, and it’s half the price currently offered by the personal genomics company Knome (pronounced “know-me”). Dr. Stephen Quake, the Stanford inventor, claims his new Heliscope Single Molecule Sequencer’s ability to decode a human genome in four weeks with a staff of three people will serve to “democratize access to the fruits of the genome revolution.”

The two articles together could make an interesting basis for a story.