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Microsoft Seeks Do-Let-The-Bed-Bugs-Bite Patent 176

Posted by timothy
from the you'll-feel-a-slight-pinch dept.
theodp writes "In its just-published patent application for Adapting Parasites to Combat Disease, Microsoft lays out plans to unleash 'altered parasitic organisms' on humans, including mosquitoes, fleas, ticks, bed bugs, leeches, pinworms, tapeworms, hookworms, heart worms, roundworms, lice (head, body, and pubic), and the like. 'Irradiated mosquitoes can be used to deliver damaged Plasmodium to individuals,' explains Microsoft. 'Instead of contracting malaria, an individual receiving the damaged Plasmodium develops an immune response that renders the individual resistant to contracting malaria.' Don't worry about runaway breeding, advises Microsoft — 'a termination feature [that] can include programmed death' makes this impossible. As David Spade might say, I liked this movie the first time I saw it — when it was called Jurassic Park."
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Microsoft Seeks Do-Let-The-Bed-Bugs-Bite Patent

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  • by adam (1231) * on Saturday January 15, 2011 @07:25PM (#34892892)
    Organizations like SBRI [seattlebiomed.org] are doing really interesting work on genetically attenuated malaria vaccines [malariavaccine.org], and the research isn't as scary as TFS makes it out to be (e.g. comparing it to Jurassic Park). (Here's a detailed slideshow [who.int] if you want to know the specifics.) The "runaway breeding" the article alludes to is ridiculous — we already have "runaway breeding" of anopheles mosquitoes, and as a result malaria kills a million or more persons per year, mostly in poor countries. The main issue with malaria vaccines is not "runaway breeding," but that eventually mutations may render the vaccine ineffective.

    My main question here is: why is Microsoft filing for these patents? They have been involved in biomedics, afaik, only on the software and infomatics side [google.com]. Bill Gates, through his foundation, is generously giving grants [nytimes.com] to many organizations doing promising research. I didn't realize that Microsoft was directly involved in the research side of things. Did they buy assignment rights to this research (and potential patent)? Develop it themselves? That, I think, is the bigger story for me — not that this patent has been filed for, but that it's MSFT that is the assignee.
  • Sounds dangerous. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Cow007 (735705) on Saturday January 15, 2011 @07:40PM (#34892978) Journal
    This is not the type of thing to be fooling with at this stage in technology. Until we understand things better it wont be safe to do this. Nature has a way of surviving in unusual and surprising ways. Besides Microsoft, seriously even if you arent a mac user you would not put something in your body from this company with a history of poor quality and security problems in its software not to mention an emphasis on making money rather than making a quality product that makes money because it is good they make a mediocre one and people use it because they don't know any better or think they have no choice. Frankly even if Apple were to do this type of thing (which they wont) i would not mess with it anyway because they are a computer and software company. IBM Nanomachines? There is something dangerous from a company that actually specializes in such things is on the cutting edge of development and knows what the hell they are doing.
  • by tverbeek (457094) on Saturday January 15, 2011 @07:41PM (#34892996) Homepage

    If it's from Microsoft, I'll wait for version 3. Then I'll keep waiting until Service Pack 1 is released.

  • by drmofe (523606) on Saturday January 15, 2011 @07:47PM (#34893030)
    ...that a proposed Microsoft project bases its success on the coordinated operation of a collection of bugs.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 15, 2011 @08:01PM (#34893120)

    Man - now you have no choice whether or not you want to be exposed to a vaccine. As someone who is allergic to a common ingredient in medications/vaccines this makes me really nervous... What will happen to people who have bad reactions to the new modified parasites? If you want to give people vaccines, give them the choice to receive them in a traditional injection. It is probably cheaper (at least in the short term) than properly developing and testing new types of parasites. I am actually quite irritated that MicroSoft thinks they have the right to make that choice for people.

  • by SuricouRaven (1897204) on Saturday January 15, 2011 @08:14PM (#34893218)
    Forget safe. What's the worst that could happen? The creation of a mosquito-born parasite that kills millions of people every year? That's already the starting point, so it can't really get worse.
  • Is this a joke? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 15, 2011 @08:34PM (#34893318)

    I can't think of anything more nightmareish that Microsoft doing genetic engineering.

  • by rsilvergun (571051) on Saturday January 15, 2011 @08:50PM (#34893428)
    I didn't think you could patent broad concepts. They haven't got any concrete work done. Heck, I haven't taken a biology class in 10 years and I can come up with this stuff.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 16, 2011 @01:11AM (#34894790)

    I think that was the parent poster's point...the Schmeiser case was blown way out of what it actually was by people who, quite frankly, have no clue what they're talking about, and can't be bothered to look up the facts, and even when they're presented with them, just stick to the old, overly simplified, good guy/bad guy story anyway. So, it is very equivalent to what you're saying about the hot coffee case.

  • by sjames (1099) on Sunday January 16, 2011 @03:04AM (#34895198) Homepage

    No, I think he happened to discover the roundup resistance when he tried the perfectly normal procedure of applying roundup in the places he didn't want the canola to grow and some of it just kept growing.

    Note that Monsanto is in the habit of suing any farmer that has a crop that resists roundup at all, even if they do not use roundup. They claim the gene and any plant containing it is theirs.

    They have repeatedly claimed that cross contamination with neighboring fields cannot happen. The fact that there are now weeds with the trait brings that into question.

    The finding of the court was that anyone using Round Up on Round Up Ready crops is exercising the patent. It doesn't matter how they got the Round Up or the Round Up Ready crops. This is entirely consistent with the history of patent infringement. It doesn't matter if you independently discover the covered technique, you're still violating the patent if you exercise it.

    It also violates the principles that have served agriculture well for centuries. Carried to it's natural conclusion, it will eventually hand ownership of nature itself over to corporate interests (or at least so surround it in a thicket of patents that they might as well own it).

    The courts may say otherwise, but it doesn't make them morally or ethically right, it just means the guys with guns and badges are listening to them.

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