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Patents Science

Ontario Ignores Gene Patent 68

Anonymous Coward writes "Well, for once my government the Ontario Tories have done something right. You see, there's this cancer test that involves a gene sequence patented in Utah. Thankfully, my goverment decided to ignore the patent and help out those who need it. Ah the joys of living in such a liberated country." Different provinces have made different decisions about this particular patent.
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Ontario Ignores Gene Patent

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 07, 2003 @12:07PM (#5033438)

    Ah the joys of living in such a liberated country

    You'll be less pleased when GWB names Canada as a new member of the Axis of Evil in his upcoming State of the Union address because of your "intellectual terrorism".

  • Sure... (Score:3, Funny)

    by breon.halling ( 235909 ) on Tuesday January 07, 2003 @12:16PM (#5033546)

    ...they can ignore patents, but not my collection of unpaid parking tickets. ;)

  • Why thankfully? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by MacAndrew ( 463832 )
    I sympathize with the questions raised about genetic patents, and worry more generally much more about the threat of profiteering by companies that develop life-or-death health technologies, and the plight of people who can't afford essential care.

    But here, the poster is complimenting getting a free ride on the work of others. This is not "liberated" thinking, it is merely a bid to save money. It does not take a lot of imagination to project that too many free rides will lead to few if any rides.

    Surely there is a middle ground, compensating the developers as one would for a new drug, while avoiding the trickier implications of patents on genes. When it comes to money, this action is no different than immediately making a generic version of a newly developed drug.
    • Re:Why thankfully? (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Myraid Genetics is charging outrageous amounts for the test and saying that nobody else is permitted to test for the presence of the genes. The Ontario doctors have come up with their own test, but Myraid is crying foul because they claim to *own* the gene.
      • Yep, that's part of the problem with genetic patents, which strike me as very strange. I think patents are a mistake, but want to encourage genetic research by all means, private and public.

        Did the Canandian researchers benefit from Myriad's research? If they did, they should compensate them. I hope the sides will settle this in some way, and if Myriad's work was beneficial that they are compensated for it, including a reasonable profit.

        What I don't believe is "because genetic patents are wrong, Myriad's work is a freebie."

        It's the Canadian gov't footing the bill here, isn't it? Canadian funding for health care is far more generous than in the U.S.
    • Re:Why thankfully? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by salesgeek ( 263995 ) on Tuesday January 07, 2003 @01:47PM (#5034267) Homepage
      But here, the poster is complimenting getting a free ride on the work of others.


      Genetic patents are patently ridiculous because they almost always involve discovering prior art and patenting it or the process used to observe it. Generally, genetic patents are not novel or new in any way. They are akin to patenting basic algorithms being applied to basic operations - for instance, building a b-tree to store and retrieve strings in one patent and integers in another.

      Congrats to Ontario for seeing genetic patents for the farce they are. I could care less about the profits of a few would-be monopolists over the lives of even one or two people. Save the people, have compassion on the sick, and most importantly, don't value money over the lives of the poor. You could be poor one day.

      $G
      • You are hopelessly shortsighted and must live at home.

        If you had a million to invest, would you choose a genetic research project where you would lose it all? Hmm. Wonder if that research will ever get private funding?

        You have no compassion for the sick if you would bankrupt research into cures.
        • You are hopelessly shortsighted and must live at home.
          Cute. So I'll answer in kind: Like most people, I live at my home. My wife, kids and cat live here, too.
          If you had a million to invest, would you choose a genetic research project where you would lose it all?
          I would not invest in anything where there is a 100% chance of loosing it all. So what's your point? How do genetic patents produce cures anyway? Genetic patents gridlock real applied science by locking up the genome and the methods used to manipulate genetic material for the next 25 years...
          You have no compassion for the sick if you would bankrupt research into cures.
          What's a human life worth, in Euros, please? I believe the discovery of a cure should be rewarded, but not at the expense of human lives. Nor do I think discovering something that occurs in nature is novel or an original invention.

          $G

        • Re:Why thankfully? (Score:3, Insightful)

          by d_i_r_t_y ( 156112 )
          i know what you're trying to say but it's not right. the patenting of genes occurs solely to prevent others (other comapanies, research institutions) from exploiting/developing cures through the exploitation/manipulation of that gene.

          the fact is, discovering a potential gene/therapeutic target is only the first step in a long (10-15 years) and arduous road to a publically available cure/therapy, which is when the financial floodgates finally open (wide). the gene itself is worth nothing (in terms of $$$ value of course) until a therapy which exploits that gene or its gene product is discovered, and THAT'S where the money is. that and only that is what should (usually) be protectable/patentable.

          GENETIC PATENTS ARE FUNDAMENTALLY WRONG because they prevent others from developing or even researching potential therapies right at the beginning of the discovery pipeline, which clearly and absolutely PREVENTS innovation/discovery and is AGAINST the public good. the innovation is the *therapy* that exploits the gene, not the gene itself. i can "discover" a (likely) new gene with some cheap and nasty perl and the publically available celera sequences, but what does the gene do? is it "important"? how does it work? does it cause, or correlate with, the incidence of some disease? how? etc etc. surely i shouldn't have the right to claim (patent) that gene as my "invention" until i've shown that it does something interesting and can demonstrate a method of its exploitation, right?

          all in all, GENE PATENTS ARE MERELY SPECULATIVE LAND-GRABS, like someone bursting into a department store on the first morning of the post-christmas sales and then staking a claim on all the bargain bins whilst crying 'i got there first!'. the bargain bin should be open to everyone until someone picks something of value out of it, right?

          in the same way that all web-savvy people decried the ridiculousness of amazon and others with their ludicrous patents, anyone worth their salt in molecular biology/biochemistry knows that GENE PATENTS ARE JUST WRONG WRONG WRONG.

          - a card-carrying scientist

  • Patenting Genes (Score:2, Interesting)

    by 56 ( 527333 )
    Wouldn't that mean that just by having that gene sequence you are violating their patent? I can see how they can patent the method to test for this gene pattern, but not the gene pattern itself.
  • prior art (Score:2, Funny)

    by J x ( 160849 )
    Since we all have prior art on the human genome, shouldn't it be "open source"?
  • by nuggz ( 69912 ) on Tuesday January 07, 2003 @01:01PM (#5033899) Homepage
    This is an important distinction.
    If they patented the gene, it is already existing naturally, there is no reasonable infringement.

    If they patented the procedure to detect the gene, they shoul get the benefit of their research (assuming it is a valid patent).

    If they patented the gene as a method to predict cancer, then the arguement is quite murky. Finding cancer by looking for it is obvious. Finding cancer by looking for other unrelated factors is probaly a valid patent.

    If this gene sequence is related to cancer (causative or a result of) then it is related to the having of cancer (like cough due to cold).

    Maybe they just have a good patent lawyer.
    • I believe that Myriad is claiming that any test for the gene infringes on their patents -- which isn't quite the same thing as claiming to have patented the gene itself, but it's damn close. I see this as part of a general problem with patents being granted for ideas instead of implementations, which is inherently fucked up.
    • Genes should not be patentable. Patents are for inventions, not discoveries. A specific test involving a gene can be patented, but I've never heard any coherent rationalization as to why a gene itself should be patentable.

      I say this as someone who makes his living by writing gene expression analysis software for pharmaceutical companies. Gene patents help me put food on my table but I can't deny that they're ridiculous.

      • You can patent a method.

        Lets suppose much baldness is cause by a gene, please neglect the obviousness of my idea.

        Method to predict future baldness.
        Look for gene XXX in subject, if found, they will become bald.
        Analyse biological relatives for baldness, if many are bald, the subject will likely become bald.
        Baldness genes are in masturbatory semen, if the father watches too much pornography, the subject will have a higher likeliehood of baldness.

        These "methods for detecting baldness", depend on the discovered science. But that does not mean they are not methods for doing something.

        Discovery is a vauge term, and patent law doesn't state you can't patent discoveries, it defines what you may patent.
        • Yes, but this is in agreement with the parent post that I wrote- it's an argument for patenting a method (a specific test involving a gene), not for patenting the baldness gene itself.

          We were really nervous with the loose wording in the CBDTPA when that was being talked about in Washington last year. We'd have to suppress certain genes from appearing in gene expression profile graphs if someone other than the user held a patent on them.

  • If only (Score:3, Funny)

    by mnmn ( 145599 ) on Tuesday January 07, 2003 @01:15PM (#5034024) Homepage

    Proud to be in a country that does this. Now if only Canada:

    (1) Ignores all copyrights on MS Windows
    (2) Leaves the ranks of GWB's warmonger party.. ..would be a VERY nice (albeit cold) country to live in.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Gene sequences can be patented in the US and many other countries because the naturally occurring sequences have "junk DNA" intervening between chunks of "coding DNA" that contain the actual genetic information. So a natural gene might look like this:

    AxxxBxxxxCxxxxxxxxxD

    where the x's represent the junk.

    The patented gene sequence would look like this:

    ACBD

    So, you would not violate a company's patent by having the naturally occurring gene in your body.

    The idea is to reward the effort it takes to identify what a gene does and isolate the sequence needed to reproduce the protein the gene codes for.

    Now, when it was hard to do that, a patent might be warranted. Whether that is still the case now that it is quite easy to identify coding regions and sort-of "reverse engineer" what the gene does by sticking the code into a mouse, or removing the mouse's version, etc etc etc., and now that all the methods are very well known to someone "versed in the art," is a matter of much debate.
  • GREAT!!! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 07, 2003 @01:38PM (#5034207)
    Awesome.. i whole heartdly support them..

    here's the real kicker..

    "The tests cost about $1,100 each but Myriad, which also holds gene patents for screening of colon and prostate cancers, wants all tests done at its own laboratory at triple the cost."

    Cost of healthcare is high enough.. and don't tell me they aren't making a dime when a test costs $1,100 each to begin with, not only that but cancer testing will remain IN CANADA, not in a foreign (not like the US is far away) country.

    Sickens me to see my tax dollars wasted, but this is one good sign. With several relatives either gone because of cancer, or currently have cancer, prescreening is important and makes curing and treating cancer that much more possible.

    - Happy Canadian flippin the bird at stupid US patents.
    • ... With several relatives either gone because of cancer, or currently have cancer ... Happy Canadian flippin the bird at stupid US patents.

      The only way that medical problems such as cancer will be cured is by medical research. If medical research companies are not able to recover their investment, then the research will stop. They are in the business to make money, and are trying to make money in a very honorable way, helping to fight major medical issues.

      • The only way that medical problems such as cancer will be cured is by medical research. If medical research companies are not able to recover their investment, then the research will stop.

        Unless, of course, they go back to public funding for such projects.... Here in Canuckistan, we're weird that way.
        • Unless, of course, they go back to public funding for such projects.... Here in Canuckistan, we're weird that way.

          Why didn't I think of that? A massive government agency to spurn innovation in medical research, by having civil servants deciding who is the most deserving of the funding, instead of the free market. Now that seems like a really good idea.

          • A massive government agency to spurn innovation in medical research, by having civil servants deciding who is the most deserving of the funding, instead of the free market. Now that seems like a really good idea.

            Last time I checked, corporations in the free market were more concerned with profit than my health and well-being. How else does one explain the need for things such as the Underwriter's Laboratory and the FDA? Hell, seatbelts wouldn't even be in cars if it was up to corporations. Abuse of the rules by greedy corps is yesterdays news, pharmaceutical cover-ups of side-effects of major drugs are as prevalent as Enron-like meltdowns.

            Just try and tell me what important and relevant research doesn't or could not occur in the academic university environment. Then try and tell me that it would be better if corporations had a lock on all of the research dollars so that they can sell us the cure for cancer for immense profit. Try and tell me that the civil servants in charge of determining research dollar allocation know less about science than you so obviously do. Just one advantage of an overseeing body is in reducing the over-duplication of research.

            My father-in-law is the chief scientist to the Canadian Space Agency. Let me tell you, I think with his multiple PhDs, international recognition and awards, he is perfectly capable of performing his capacity of deciding on what projects are worth spending money on and out-performing the private sector at efficient use of research dollars. You make it sound as though governments a) know nothing about science and b) hire monkeys to run the science programs they don't understand. Science is big business for a nation's future GDP and, regardless of whatever cost-cutting mantra to deliver tax cuts to the rich GWB is selling you, everyone knows this.

            Don't get me wrong here, I think there should be a ripe and fruitful market-place for private research, but that needs to be balanced by a ripe and fruitful arena for public research, especially in the area of non-profitable medical applications (no one makes money on the pennies-a-glass drugs that allow african infants to not diarheah their insides out).

            Just an an aside, reams of studies show that governments spend money more efficiently than the private sector or even (gasp!) you or me. Economies of scale and unreal looking-ahead appears to dwarf the over-publicised waste that the media salivates over.

            I'm really extending this but, along these lines, recent employment data in Canada and the US shows that Canada, while having a higher unemployment rate-- a result of differences in how the two countries count the unemployed-- actually possesses a higher overall employment rate. And Canada is doing this with high growth rates despite the abysmal US economy which accounts for 80 percent of the Canadian economy. On top of beating the US at their own game, the Canadian system maintains a stronger social safety net and free health care for every citizen. And greater rights for workers, more equitable labour laws. So societies and governments that don't buy into the "dominance of the market-place"-- like the americans seem to be falling all over themselves to do-- can and do compete well.

            This, to me, is all an extension of my argument against this apparent dread of "government intervention" in science, the economy, or social policy. Good government can run things very smoothly, private corporations can run things very poorly. North of the border they seem to be having a good experience with good government and compassionate social policy, why can't government be encouraged to be involved in science? Is it just me or does slashdot often seem to equate government intervention with Soviet Russia?

            Just my two cents.
            • ... My father-in-law is the chief scientist to the Canadian Space Agency. Let me tell you, I think with his multiple PhDs, international recognition and awards, he is perfectly capable of performing his capacity of deciding on what projects are worth spending money on and out-performing the private sector at efficient use of research dollars. ...

              Was he the one who decided that Canada's only contributions of note to the exploration of space would be two robotic arms? How much did those two arms cost? How much should they have costed?

      • What does this mean really?

        For one thing it means that no medical research company is going to waste time researching whether proper diet or some cheaply available herb will cure any given malady. "Oh. We found the cure for cancer. It is strawberry-banana smoothies." They wouldn't make a dime.

        What does this mean for the public?
        On the good side there is a someone out there looking for ways to test for and cure diseases and make things better for sick people.
        On the bad side it means that they will only look for the hard way to do it because they cannot collect payment for giving you an easy cure.
      • The only way that medical problems such as cancer will be cured is by medical research. If medical research companies are not able to recover their investment, then the research will stop. They are in the business to make money, and are trying to make money in a very honorable way, helping to fight major medical issues.

        Don't pharmaceutical companies have a terrible reputation for dishonesty? Here is a link to a story about Apotex [cwru.edu]. Short version? Pharmaceutical firms routinely get researchers to sign documents allowing the firm to gag them, if they discover information about the drug that would be bad for business. The lead researcher, in this case, Dr Nancy Olivieri, discovered there was a very harmful side-effect of the drug in question, and wrote letters to the parents of her young experimental subjects. And Apotex went ballistic, and tried to ruin her career.

        This is not an isolated case. This kind of thing happens all the time. Usually you don't hear about it because the researchers fold.

  • How good is this? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BCGlorfindel ( 256775 ) <klassenk.brandonu@ca> on Tuesday January 07, 2003 @02:37PM (#5034704) Journal
    First off, I am against large pharmaceutical companies profitting off of the sick and dying. But before heralding this as a victory for freedoms, the flipside also deserves some consideration. Like it or not, research into cures for diseases require money, period. This research is very expensive, and thus so are the resulting products. I can understand trying to cut excessive profiteering on new found medicines(or tests in this case) but if any nation can afford to pay some cash for the research that was done, surely we Canadians are one of those nations... Unless of course the price asked was in American dollars :)
    • The only problem being is that it is in AMerican dollars and at the triple the cost. Not only that, canadians would be require to travel to some far god forsaken land in america!

      There should definitely be some legitimate control of the patents. WIth all those gene patents springing up in countless numbers, soon one would have to pay a fortune to gain access to even basic examinations.

"Everyone is entitled to an *informed* opinion." -- Harlan Ellison

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