domingo, 5 de diciembre de 2010
Human gene patent laws 'outdated' Bridie Smith
November 27, 2010
.A DECADES-OLD law on patenting human genes must be updated to ensure vital research into diseases such as cancer and epilepsy can proceed unhindered, a Senate report has found.
Patents of human genes - considered the blueprints of human life - are held by research institutions, biotechnology companies and universities. A Senate report released late yesterday criticised the way gene patents are currently issued and recommended a raft of legal changes, including lifting the standard for awarding gene patents.
Currently IP Australia, the government body that administers patents, allows patenting of ''isolated genetic material'' which it considers an invention. But the Senate report strongly rejected that 30-year-old rationale and said the act should be amended so that removing a human gene from its natural environment was not considered an invention, but a discovery.
Advertisement: Story continues below ''It's a big breakthrough,'' said Luigi Palombi, who heads the Australian National University's Genetic Sequence Right Project. ''Merely finding something in its natural environment is not enough. You can't claim a patent over a gene, just like you can't claim a patent over iron ore.''
The report, two years in the making, made 16 recommendations including that the government set up a ''transparency register'' outlining to outline who owns what biological material and the establishment of an independent patent audit committee. It did not call for a total ban on gene patents. The Senate committee began investigating the issue after Melbourne-based Genetic Technologies demanded in 2008 that eight public laboratories testing for breast cancer ''cease using the patents'' or risk legal action.
Genetic Technologies holds the Australian licence for two genes associated with breast and ovarian cancer known as BRCA 1 and 2, as well as the licence for the epilepsy gene.
The company, which bought the Australian rights to the breast cancer test from US firm Myriad, said the $2100 test needed to be done at its laboratory or not at all.
Legislation to ban patenting of human genes was introduced to Parliament on Wednesday by Liberal senator Bill Heffernan, backed by independent senator Nick Xenophon and the Greens.
Human gene patent laws 'outdated'