6/08/2007

Patenting Pandora’s Bug

quote:

ETC Group Will Challenge Patents on "Synthia" - Original Syn Organism Created in Laboratory

...the J. Craig Venter Institute is applying for a patent on a new biological bombshell - the world's first-ever human-made species. The novel bacterium is made entirely with synthetic DNA in the laboratory.

"Synthia may not be as cuddly as a cloned lamb, but we believe this is a much bigger deal," explains Jim Thomas of ETC Group, a civil society organization that is calling on the world's patent offices to reject the applications. "These monopoly claims signal the start of a high-stakes commercial race to synthesize and privatize synthetic life forms. Will Venter's company become the 'Microbesoft' of synthetic biology?" asks Jim Thomas.

Published on May 31, 2007, the Venter Institute's US Patent application (number 20070122826) claims exclusive ownership of a set of essential genes and a synthetic "free-living organism that can grow and replicate" that is made using those genes.

"Synthetic biologists have already assembled the poliovirus from off-the-shelf DNA, a feat that its constructor called 'a giant wake up call' because of the biowarfare implications. Syns are being hyped as a green, climate-change solution in order to deflect concerns that they could be used as bioweapons," adds Silvia Ribeiro of ETC Group.

The patent application is also a wake-up call to synthetic biologists who are advocating for "open source" biology - the idea that the fundamental tools and components of synthetic biology should be freely accessible to researchers. In the June 4 issue of Newsweek Craig Venter boasts, "If we made an organism that produced fuel, that could be the first billion- or trillion-dollar organism. We would definitely patent that whole process." In 2005, Venter founded Synthetic Genomics, Inc. to commercialize synthetic microbes for use in energy, agriculture and climate change remediation.

ETC Group - Publications - Patenting Pandora’s Bug: Goodbye, Dolly...Hello, Synthia! J. Craig Venter Institute Seeks Monopoly Patents on the World’s First-Ever Human-Made Life Form

Patent application

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