Incyte Incites Concern
by Kristen Philipkoski


3:00 a.m. 16.Feb.2000 PST

Gene research lab Incyte rankled critics with its announcement Tuesday that the company plans to file patent applications on 15,000 gene sequences this year.

"We plan to file a full-length patent on every drug target in the human genome during 2000," Roy Whitfield, CEO of Incyte, said at the Bio CEO and Investor 2000 conference in New York.

Incyte has identified at least part of every gene in the estimated 100,000 genes in the human genome. The Human Genome Project has already made its data publicly available.

Conference attendees expressed skepticism that the patent office could realistically process such a high volume of patent applications.

Some also wondered how Incyte's own customers -- other genetic research companies -- would react to the lab patenting gene sequences.

"We license them nonexclusively for a low single-digit royalty," Whitfield responded. "This is why the drug companies love us. They want Incyte to have these patents -- they don't want a world where somebody's being exclusionary."

Others objected to what they see as a monopoly on genetic information.

"I think it's a very serious issue that the whole human genome database could be exclusively owned by a few companies," said Jane Rosen, a biochemist in New York.

Still others said they didn't believe that such patents could hold their own.

"I'm predicting that by and large, patents on human gene sequences will either be revoked, or will not be issued," said one industry representative who asked not to be identified.

There already are about 800 gene sequence patents on file that have not been issued, he said.

"I think that public understanding of the issue and the importance of that information to the public good will outweigh any proprietary claims," he said.

Incyte provides a database of genetic information for a subscription fee to such pharmaceutical companies as Eli Lilly, Roche, Millennium, and Bayer.

Using its "75 terabyte compute farm," the Palo Alto, California, company has developed a database containing over 10,000 gene sequence matches.

"We can tell you in which cells and tissues those genes are expressed," Whitfield said.

The company has identified 103 genes associated with colorectal cancer alone, he said.

And from its gene distribution center in St. Louis, Missouri, Incyte can ship any of its 15 million clones to customers.

source:
http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,1282,34372,00.html
Wired News



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