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Alliances and Financial Stakes Grow in Human DNA Prospecting

Sunday 19th October 1997

According to an article in the October 24th edition of Science magazine, In a new gold rush, genetics researchers are scouring odd corners of the world for families whose DNA is likely to carry interesting genes. They won't be freely sharing what they find, because their backing comes from companies like Sequana Therapeutics Inc. of La Jolla, California; Millennium Pharmaceuticals Inc. of Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Genset S.A. of Paris."

The reason why they won't share: The companies are looking to patent and profit from the DNA of remote populations. Just over a week after the Science report, on November 3, Arris Pharmaceuticals of California announced it would pay US $166 million in stock to take over Sequana, one of the highest profile human DNA prospecting companies. The merged company resulting from the Arris takeover will be called Axys Pharmaceuticals.1

Wednesday 17th September 1997

Agricultural biotechnology is intensely concentrated in the hands of four or five life industry corporations. Provides a snapshot of five industry giants.

Wednesday 30th July 1997

The hesitancy with which the US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) began granting animal patents in 1988 has all but disappeared, and today the practice is accelerating dramatically (see chart). The recent trend is fueled by a backlog of patent applications, rapid advances in biotechnologies and the promise of commercial markets for transgenic animals and the therapeutic proteins they produce. Based on the US trend, the European Union can expect hundreds of backlogged animal patents to begin issuing if the European Patent Directive is adopted - as expected - by the European Parliament's Council of Ministers later this year.

Recommendations will stimulate - not deter - commercialization of human cloning

Wednesday 30th July 1997

The final, 107-page report prepared by the US National Bioethics Advisory Commission on human cloning, accepted by President Clinton on 9 June, sends a clear signal to the biotech industry that it can move full speed ahead to commercialize the cloning of animals, including human beings," says Pat Mooney, Executive Director of RAFI. "The Commission seems to have sidestepped all the tough ethical issues," Mooney continues, "and has reduced the broad moral debate solely to a question of safety for mother and embryo."

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