Policy ForumIntellectual Property

Intellectual Property Landscape of the Human Genome

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Science  14 Oct 2005:
Vol. 310, Issue 5746, pp. 239-240
DOI: 10.1126/science.1120014

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The impact of gene patents on downstream research and innovation are unknown, in part because of a lack of empirical data on the extent and nature of gene patenting. In this Policy Forum, the authors show that 20% of human gene DNA sequences are patented and that some genes are patented as many as 20 times. Unsurprisingly, genes associated with health and disease are more patented than the genome at large. The intellectual property rights for some genes can become highly fragmented between many owners, which suggests that downstream innovators may face considerable costs to gain access to gene-oriented technologies.