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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

In Uncategorized on June 7, 2007 at 2:11 pm

ETC Group Will Challenge Patents on “Synthia” – Original Syn Organism Created in Laboratory

Ten years after Dolly the cloned sheep made her stunning debut, 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.

The Venter Institute – named for its founder and CEO, J. Craig Venter, the scientist who led the private sector race to map the Human Genome – is applying for worldwide patents on what they refer to as “Mycoplasma laboratorium.” In the tradition of ‘Dolly,’ ETC has nicknamed this synthetic organism (or ‘syn’) ‘Synthia.’….
In Vivo, In Vitro, In-Venter? 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. The Venter Institute has also filed an international patent application at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO number WO2007047148, published April 27, 2007) which names more than 100 countries where it may seek monopoly patents…..

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……

Syn of Omission? Synthetic biologists may also be dismayed to learn that Synthia is being patented for what it is not. The patent application explains that the inventors arrived at their minimal genome by determining which genes are essential and which are not. Remarkably, their patent application claims any synthetically-constructed organism that lacks at least 55 of 101 genes that they’ve determined are non-essential. “All synthetic biologists developing functionalized microbes are going to have to pay close attention to the claim on a ‘non-essential’ set of genes……

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