Ulf Pettersson on Gene Patenting
  Ulf Pettersson     Biography    
Recorded: 20 Aug 2003

That’s a tricky question. I mean basically I think that the scientific community should strive towards openness. I think that’s very important. I mean patents can’t be avoided. I think that we would not have development of drugs to the same extent, for instance, as we have if patents weren’t allowed. At the same time we get ridiculous costs of medication as a result of the patents, but I think in the choice between not having and having, I mean, you must allow patenting.

If patent in terms of genes, I mean, to patent genes for, let’s say, for making insulin or for making growth hormones, I think it seems to me quite reasonable. The latest that someone has patented junk DNA, and is going to make money. I think it’s ridiculous.

So openness I think is one should strive for, but patents are also needed.

Ulf Pettersson, geneticist and virologist, is the vice-president of the University of Upssala in Sweden, a professor of medical genetics, and a leader of a group on genetic disease in the Department of Genetics and Pathology. His scientific research is focused on finding genes linked with diseases such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.

After finishing his medical degree in Sweden and his thesis on adenovirus proteins, he came to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. He worked as a postdoc alongside Joe Sambrook and Rich Roberts. He researched transcription and the methods by which to grow and extract adenovirus DNA and studied how to use restriction enzymes to map viral chromosomes. His work led to the understanding of how the chromosome is organized and how transcription takes place. In the 80’s he slowly altered his concentration from virology to genetics.

After leaving Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in 1973 he became a professor of microbiology at the University of Uppsala and then chairman of the Department of Medical Genetics. He was a member of the Human Genome Organisation (HUGO) (1992-1998), and is currently a member of both the Finnish Academy of Sciences and the Royal Academy of Sciences.