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Thursday, June 29, 2000

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Yahoo! News Celera to Shift Focus to Patentable Discoveries
"A day after Monday's announcement that it had sequenced the entire human genome, Celera Genomics said on Tuesday that it will turn its attention to other, potentially more profitable, endeavors.

"Speaking to investors during a conference call, Tony L. White, chairman of the PE Corporation, Celera's parent company, said that ``all of the energy'' of the genomics unit will be directed toward discovery efforts "that are subject to intellectual property protection.''"

"The move toward discovery efforts represents ``a shift from what we've been doing,'' White acknowledged. "Our focus from the formation of the company 2 years ago was to build a significant bioinformatics presence,'' he said, "but we have the money to pursue a much more grandiose strategy now and we intend to do that.''"
Forbes Celera's Worth Still Up In The Air
"Great discoveries do not necessarily make great businesses. Businesses have to sell something. Celera Genomics doesn't sell or make anything tangible. It hawks service and information. It sells access to lists of genes and computers that can sort through those messy lists. Samuel Broder, the company's executive vice president and chief medical officer, makes Celera sound like some kind of consulting company, or perhaps a library."

"Venter's quest could be a fable, with all sorts of morals about the power of capitalism and the importance of a single, brilliant, willful individual who used the market to shake the ivory towers of science. But those morals only hold if Celera succeeds, if business and science blend to propel the company into the future with breathtaking speed without rocketing it into the realities of the marketplace. Celera could become one of the great business success stories. It could also be a financial train wreck."

Right now, that makes it a very volatile stock."

The New York Times U.S. Hopes to Stem Rush Toward Patenting of Genes
[requires 'free' registration]
"Long before scientists had completed the task of reading the human genome, parts of it had already been claimed for commerce. In what has often been compared to a land grab, companies and universities have filed for patents on hundreds of thousands of genes and gene fragments. "

"Indeed, genes have been patented for years. Many of the first were for drugs. For example, erythropoietin, for anemia, was found by cloning genes that coded for particular proteins. In those early days, scientists knew the function of the protein and worked backwards, taking years to isolate a single gene.

But now high-speed gene sequencing and other techniques are allowing genes or fragments of genes to be discovered en masse, without knowing the functions of the proteins produced by the genes. These genes, rather than representing a product in themselves, are now guides to future product discovery. And there is concern that if these genes are patented it would discourage other scientists from doing research using the same genes. Some compare it to trying to gain ownership of the alphabet, rather than of a novel or play."

redux [04.26.00]
SF Gate Call It the Gene Rush -- Patent Stakes Run High
"After years of bickering, the patent office has proposed adding three simple words to its guidelines. To win a patent, applicants will have to describe a "substantial, specific and credible'' use for their gene."

John Doll, who heads the patent office's biotech division, said the guidelines essentially group the huge backlog of 30,000 patent applications into three classes.

The first are genes isolated in a laboratory, whose purpose is likely to be known. Doll calls this ``wet biology.'' Government and academic scientists have used wet biology to patent genes for 20 years. These are not controversial.

Another class of applications cover ``naked DNA sequences.'' These were the sort of early, machine-generated gene discoveries that provoked alarm in the first place. The new guidelines rule them out.

The battleground is the large number of applications that fall in the middle. These are machine-discovered genes, but they aren't "naked sequences.'' ."

"As the controversy over "naked sequences'' festered, biotech companies got smarter about using their machines. When they discovered a new gene, they employed software that analyzed its structure and deduced its purpose. Doll called these "in silico'' applications -- a reference to the fact that the gene's purpose was deduced through a computer analysis."

""It's not important that you understand the function of the gene (to get a patent), it's only important that it have a commercial utility,'' Incyte's Scott said. "

redux [03.18.00]
HMS Beagle Patenting Genes Is It Necessary and Is It Evil?
[requires 'free' registration]
"Last October, biologists' neck hair rose when J. Craig Venter announced his company, Celera, had filed 6,500 provisional patent applications for human genes. Henry Ford mass-produced automobiles - it seems evident we are now entering an era in which intellectual property is rolling off the assembly lines. Is this really the ultimate legacy of Watson and Crick's elegant double helix? And what does it portend for the future of biology?"

[ rhetoric ]

Bioinformatics will be at the core of biology in the 21st century. In fields ranging from structural biology to genomics to biomedical imaging, ready access to data and analytical tools are fundamentally changing the way investigators in the life sciences conduct research and approach problems. Complex, computationally intensive biological problems are now being addressed and promise to significantly advance our understanding of biology and medicine. No biological discipline will be unaffected by these technological breakthroughs.


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