Don't Let Scientists Patent Synthetic Life
Genome pioneer argues for open access
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 25, 2010 3:50 AM CDT
This undated handout image provided by the J. Craig Venter Institute shows the synthetic M.mycoides genome.   (AP Photo/J. Craig Venter Institute)

(Newser) – Craig Venter's creation of the first synthetic life form is a milestone discovery but patenting it will hold back science, argues a British scientist who helped sequence the human genome. John Sulston—who clashed with Venter a decade ago when he sought to restrict access to genome information—tells the BBC that allowing Venter to patent the organism will be "extremely damaging" because it will give his firm a stranglehold over a whole range of genetic engineering techniques.

"I've read through some of these patents and the claims are very, very broad indeed," writes Sulston. Overuse of patents in the scientific community is holding back innovation, he says, counter to claims that stronger intellectual property protection boosts innovations. "My objections to patenting human genes or genes from existing living organisms is that they are inventions or discoveries," he says.