Thursday, June 21, 2007

Patenting an entirely synthetic free-living organism?

The June 15, 2007 issue of Science has an article entitled "Attempt to Patent Artificial Organism Draws a Protest" (316 Science 1557), which notes an application published on May 31, 2007 directed to "a minimal set of protein-coding genes which provides the information required for replication of a free-living organism in a rich bacterial culture medium." One utilization would be organisms to make ethanol or hydrogen.

MIT's Tom Knight is quoted as "I think it's rather tasteless," with his complaint that the patent application doesn't explain how to build the artificial cell. IPBiz asks: Can one say University of Rochester / COX-2 real fast? IPBiz also notes, contrary to representations by Science's Eli Kintisch in the July 28, 2006 issue of Science, there is indeed a written description requirement in patent law (as well as an enablement requirement). [See 88 JPTOS 743 and the IPBiz post: Kintisch article challenged in Sept. 06 JPTOS]

Frederick Blattner of the University of Wisconsin and Scarab Genomics has patented a stripped down E. coli, and Harvard's George Church is quoted as suggesting a modified E. Eoli might work to make hydrogen (rather than a synthetic Mycoplasma genitalium).


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