A patent is a grant issued in the name of PTO (patent and trademark office of the United States of America). The patent excludes other people from making, selling or importing the invention. Gene patents are important in encouraging private investments in genetics, genomic medicine and biotechnology. Small pieces of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) plant or animals cell are utilized by scientists to create entirely new organisms or plants. The genetic materials of animals and plants are mostly exploited in the patent applications with the aim of maintaining the viability of these cells for a long period of time.
Genes from plants, animals and humans are usually isolated sequenced and then stored in gene banks where they can be bought and sold. In the past living organisms were not patented until the extraordinary decision by US Supreme court approved the use of patent technology in 1980. The issue of patenting organisms was faced with a lot of controversy as to why this technology had to be embraced and the ripples of this are evident even today. The opponents claimed that the genetic material is part of nature and therefore no modification should be done to it and they thought that patenting of plant and animals genes was Biopiracy.
Patent Organisms Use of plant and animal cells or use of pieces of DNA leads to transgenic organisms by transfer of genes or segments of DNA between species of organism, for instance a gene that codes for a toxin in bacteria can be incorporated into corn DNA to produce corn plant with internal defense against pests. Patents in some countries are limited to micro organisms only and not in higher organisms for example in Canada. The process of patenting involves labeling cells with a fluorescent marker in the body and then injecting a perfusion allows balancing the substance or parameter of interest in the tissue.
The fluorescent marker should be non- toxic and composed of green protein. The perfusion fluid is then collected and the substances of interest isolated and analyzed using a detector device. The markers are then removed from the cells by exciting the analyzer that produces a purified fluid. Patents on animals Animal’s genetic code can be modified to allow that particular animal to live in conditions that it would otherwise have lived without modification on its genetic code.
This was first demonstrated by biologists from Harvard University in late 1980s. This experiment was initially to be used to benefit human health. The “Harvard Oncomouse” was the first animal to be patented which was a mouse and its genetic code had been modified to increase susceptibility to cancer. Patents on food crops Patenting of food crops has been faced with controversy because this magnifies the inequality between the industrialized nations and the developing countries.
The intensified search for new genes to produce commercialized transgenic plants will lead to biocolonialism because the materials used are obtained from indigenous communities and they will end up paying for products based on plants they have used for centuries. A model of this is the pharmaceutical products are manufactured from raw materials in developing countries after which they are sold to them. A technique of plant patent is micro propagation by use of tissue culture technique in which a whole plant can be propagated from a single cell.
The cells are cultured in a media containing all the necessary nutrients, produces shoot and roots and then sub cultured severally until the plant is ready to be transferred to the field. Patents on Human life Human cell lines, genes and tissues have been utilized in producing important proteins that are of great significance in saving life of many for example insulin hormone can be patented and used by diabetic patients and the utilization of “mo” cell lines for producing valuable proteins.
Some genes from human beings can be incorporated into genome of microbes to allow production of for instance the insulin hormone in large volumes by bacteria. Microbes are used mainly because of fast multiplication rate and less complexity. Human cell lines have also been used for identification of people using DNA tests in case of an accident or even as evidence in a court of law. Applications of patent Organisms There many applications of patent organisms which includes maintaining chemical balance, storing DNA data of living organisms and identifying cancerous or metastatic cells in living organisms.
Cancer is one of the leading killer diseases in modern society and therefore there was need to come up with a method of identifying the cells affected and determining the best way of getting rid of them. The process of identifying cancerous cells involves circulating fluid with markers capable of labeling the cancerous cells after which the labeled cells are isolated and then the markers stripped off. The particle analyzer used to detect the labeled cells contains an optical assembly capable of emitting radiations thereby detecting the labeled cancerous and metastatic cells.
This technology has also been used in improving immunity in human beings and for production of monoclonal antibodies that are specific against antigens thereby safe guarding human health. Inventions of other important elements for instance plasmids which can be used to confer resistance to certain secondary metabolites are also a boost to modification of organisms. A gene of interest is usually incorporated in to the plasmid where the plasmid can be a recombinant vector for amplification of the genes of interest.
Plasmids have been extensively utilized in biotechnology and molecular biology for genetic modification of both plants and animals. Keeping microbes at bay especially in the fields is vital by using patent technology. Detergents manufactured by patent based technique have a broad spectrum against gram positive, gram negative bacteria, fungi and viruses. This chemical is positively charged and therefore attracts gram negative bacteria and rupturing its cell wall.
Microbes are also utilized in the clean up of environment by bioremediation where the microbes are used to degrade or break down the complex substances for example when there is oil spillage in sea or ocean. Sequencing the human genome is probably the greatest patent achievement that was completed in 2006. Genomics companies in the developed countries directly use genes in production of therapeutic proteins and in gene therapy with a specific gene vector. Patenting is an issue that has had a lot of controversy in the past and even in the modern society.
However, new procedures have been adopted for providers of animal and plant genetic resources. The use of patent organisms has led to independent nations especially the industrialized ones because they can afford the research money and sophiscated facilities and therefore creating losses in the developing nations because the industrialized nations do not need imports. Environmentally there is reduction in pollution as there is minimal use of pesticides and insecticides.
This is facilitated by genetic manipulation like for instance introduction of a toxin encoding gene from a microbe to a plant thereby giving rise to a plant capable of killing pests and insects. Though it had been agreed that genome and its natural state would not be used for financial gain, the patent application has been extensively commercialized and this has led to many ethical questions that need to be addressed critically and promptly. This has also shown the great difference between the industrialized nations from the developing nation.
Patenting rewards innovation and recognizes property rights for instance everyone has the right to the protection of moral and material interests from any production of the patent Conclusion Rapid developments in science have led to a lot of innovations and discoveries and the science today has shifted to biotechnology. In the past living organisms were excluded patent laws until towards the end of twentieth century. This area has been of great importance in medicine and agriculture as identification of many disease causes can be easily identified and treatment obtained.
In agriculture farmers now have access to high quality seeds with no need of pesticides. It is now possible to genetically modify or change an organism’s genetic material therefore living modified organisms have been developed through biotechnology application by recombinant DNA technology. Sets of genes from an organism can be transferred to another organism thereby changing the genetic constituent for application in for example for production of deficient proteins or to increase the susceptibility of an organism to certain conditions.
The recombinant products or patent based products are more pure and safer rather than the older ones that could transmit diseases. By use of patent derived organisms identification and treatment of many diseases causing agents has been determined. Transgenic plants and animals have also been used in phenotypic tests with genes whose function is unknown and using the recombinant DNA technology to determine their functions. References Rochelle, C. Intellectual Property: trademark, copyright, and patent law: cases and materials.
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