New Study Shows Gene Patents Stifle Innovation And Put People At Risk

from the and-there-you-go dept

Following the recent ruling in the Myriad Genetics case, that gene patents are invalid, it was amusing (if it a bit frightening) to watch some patent attorneys, who specialize in the field, react as if the world had been turned upside down, and that major scientific advances in health and medicine were all going to collapse into a giant blackhole. Of course, they had no evidence to back that up. As we’ve seen time and time again, the evidence suggests exactly the opposite — and now there’s even more evidence, specifically when it comes to patents on genes and related processes. Justin Levine points us to an Economist article highlighting a series of recently released studies that found that gene patents are quite damaging:

Even more striking is the claim made by the Duke researchers that patent exclusivity is not necessary to spur innovation in genetic testing. Dr Cook-Deegan argues that testing, unlike pricey drug development, has low barriers to entry and is relatively cheap, so a monopoly is not required to lure investors. As evidence, he points to the case of cystic fibrosis: unlike breast cancer, no monopoly patent blocks access to the relevant gene, and dozens of rival testing companies flourish.

The research also found that thanks to gene patent monopolies, many people may suffer in being unable to get access to important tests, and worse (as was the case in the Myriad suit), the monopoly kills off the potential of getting any sort of second opinion — which can be incredibly important in properly judging the situation. Of course, I fully expect the typical group of patent attorneys to ignore this evidence yet again. The full set of studies, led by Robert Cook-Deegan, at Duke University can be read online. It was done in response to a request from the US Dept. of Health — so perhaps the US gov’t is finally starting to look at actual evidence in figuring out patent policy as well. The different studies look at the impact of patents on a variety of different diseases. The results definitely differed depending on the case study, but it’s difficult to see any evidence of patents helping with innovation in any of the studies.

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Comments on “New Study Shows Gene Patents Stifle Innovation And Put People At Risk”

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Anonymous Coward says:

The monopoly hungry U.S. is going to ensure that special interest groups get their monopoly rents no matter what. They would lie, cheat, lobby, and do whatever it takes with no regard for truth, honesty, human life, progress, or morals just to get their way. and the U.S., time and time again, gives monopolists their way exactly as they want with no compromises whatsoever in each and every situation (ie: taxi cab monopolies, copyright lasts forever minus one day, telco/cableco monopolies, the government substantially restricts competition with just about everything in this country).

Anonymous Coward says:

RJR: But if it weren’t for Gene Patents then nature wouldn’t be able to generate genes!

Seriously though, how could one attain a patent on a gene in the first place? Aren’t they just patenting a (mostly natural) series of ATGC? In which case, shouldn’t they be abusing the copyright system and not the patent system?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Okay, this has gone far enough. Half the thread is telling TAM to STFU. But I genuinely want to know: Who wrote the linked article?

I did read it. I do want to discuss the points brought up in the piece. But because I took an interest in it, I do actually want to know who the author is.

So who is it? The article on the page linked does not attribute an author.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

thank you for getting the point. if the article was written by al gore, it would be amazing. If it was written by the masnick, it would be more hopeless self-promotion. while the idea isnt to be debating the author it is important in such a public declaration to know where the writer stands.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Well, I would take it from a CwF+RtB point of view.

“Wow. I really liked that article! I want to read more by this author and give economist lots of ad impressions! I’ll just click the author’s name and be directed to a list of his/her recent articles. I will then read each of them because I like this author’s style! Wait, there’s no author here…*lost revenue*”

The discussion of the content should be the same if the author is Al Gole, Mike Masnick, Anonymous, or a blogger named bonerMan15. But in terms of a publication, readers expect an author to be named for recognition purposes and to help frame where they are coming from.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

for me the point is to know if the person is using real and supporting information or just talking an agenda. having an opinion piece and then not naming the person with the opinion is misleading. it makes it look more like factual news and less like opinion. it is very disorienting. opinions come from people not the void. i dont have the same probably with comments because comments are just opinion anyway. we know everyone commenting here is expressing opinion or has an agenda, but we should always address the comment and not the commenter.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

i noticed that. i dont have a problem with no bylines on news pieces as they arent personal opinion. but opinion pieces should be attributed. without attribution, a sneaky person running a blog could be a piece run there and then use it to bootstrap themselves. you know how bootstrapping works, right masnick?

Anonymous Coward says:

The article cited by Levine cuts both ways, something that he seems not to appreciate.

The individual studies for various genetic disorders by and large concluded that such “patents” are not a significant impediment to genetic research. To the extent on study opined differently, it was predicated on comments that were anecdotal at best.

Sorry, but this study is not another “nail in the coffin” as some seem want to declare.

Anonymous Coward says:

What is the big deal? I would have thought that Levi’s would have patents on their genes, but others still make them.

Of course it does look like the good doctor in this case states that patents are needed on drug development “Dr Cook-Deegan argues that testing, unlike pricey drug development, has low barriers to entry and is relatively cheap, so a monopoly is not required to lure investors.”

Sounds like he supports patents for drug development.

darryl says:

Patents and Testing !

Quoting someone anonymous, and claiming that their information is even close to factual is poor reporting on you’re part.

You’re also misinterpreting the issues, trying to spin it to suid you’re biases.

The article you qoute (the unnamed article), talks about the cost and ability to do DRUG TESTING, as opposed to drug patents. It says the entry cost for testing is lower blah blah.

You spin this to mean that, this idea can be applied to what is admitted to be expensive and risky drug development.

Drug development and drug testing are two TOTALLY different things.

As the artile you quote says, it costs vast sums of money to develop drugs, and make the approval system (FDA and such) BEFORE ANY outside testing or human testing can be carried out.

That cost in development is not mitigated by testing by third parties, those thier parties according to you DO NOT develop drugs, they do not have the resources to do so.

They only test after the drug has been developed and in-house testing and passed through FDA (type) approval processes. That is the expensive part.

And that is the part that does not, and will not occur unless that drug development company has some form of protection on their IP. (the cost of drug development and approval).

All the effective, and good modern drugs these days are and have to be developed by large and well funded institutions. It’s high risk, they can spend billions on a drug and it may not work or may not achieve FDA approval. this is a risk the third party testers to not have. That and the zero development and approval costs mean a cheaper market entry cost.

But that says nothing about the cost and work necessary to get the drug to the human testing state that you speak about.

If what you try to claim is correct, (and it’s not), then countries like india would be the world leaders in modern drug development.
Not the US with it’s patent system on drugs.

Why cant you patent DOING SOMETHING with genes, as opposed to the genes themselves. Many inventions are defived from natural products, things nature produce, if you do something inventive or develop a new method to use that material (genes, wood, water, steam, mud, grass….) then you have every right to apply for and receive a patent for that.

Just because something is ‘natural’ does not automatically stop it from being applied in new and innovative and inventive ways. And receiving patents for it.

If for example, you work out that snake venom and water mixed in a special (proprietary way) creates rocket fuel you have every right to patent the “A method of creating rocket fuel using snake venom and water”

All natural, just like Asprin it’s a drug, it’s patented and it’s naturally occuring. The invention is finding out that if you eat a tiny amount of it you’re headache goes away.

What’s the difference between wood, water, asprin, or DNA ? none. It’s what you do with it and how you do it that matters.

Anonymous Coward says:

Darryl, what are you talking about, the article doesn’t talk about drug testing but genetic testing. “Dr Cook-Deegan argues that testing, unlike pricey drug development, has low barriers to entry and is relatively cheap, so a monopoly is not required to lure investors.”

I don’t understand what you are arguing about because the article and source (Dr. Cook-Deegan) even states that drug development needs patent rights for investors.

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