Eric Green on Gene Patenting
  Eric Green     Biography    
Recorded: 30 May 2003

What do I think of them? Well, I always like to point out that a lot of people only seemed to become aware of the fact that there were significant amounts of private genomic activities going on when Celera appeared on the scene. And the truth of the matter is that because Celera simply had, you know, quite impressive publicity associated with them.

Indeed, I would always point that as soon as the volume of people’s voices who were saying “ ah, nobody’s going to be interested in genomics. Nobody’s going to be interested in sequence. We shouldn’t do the genome project.” As soon as the volume of those arguments toned down, immediately it would happen that small little companies started cropping up all over the place to basically try to develop their own private data sets of expressed sequence tags, or be it whatever, which I always thought that there was some irony with that. But those small ventures, indeed, all predated Celera, for example.

Now, to more directly answer your question; what do I think of them? I guess I don’t necessarily think they were—I mean there’s nothing necessarily legally wrong with what they’re doing. I think [and] I don’t particularly find it appealing; I wouldn’t want to be part of it, but I understand that it enters into a far more complex set of issues associated with patents and patent law and polices associated with patents. At the end of the day I am hopeful that the interpretations of some of these patent laws will be implemented in a fashion that won’t hinder research too much. I still worry about that. I still think that this is still a serious problem. But on the other hand, you can’t—what I’ve learned is you can’t go to one extreme or the other. I mean you can’t completely do away with it because there’s a role for patent structure, but at the same time it has to be properly calibrated, and we’re not done calibrating it. And, the patent office has not done calibrating. And I think this is going clearly be an issue for some time to come. But I just personally decided that it’s not something I’m going to get heavily immersed in. I think there are far more talented people to do that.

Eric Green received his B.S. from the University of Wisconsin (1981) and his M.D. and Ph.D. from Washington University School of Medicine (1987). During his residency training in clinical pathology, he worked Maynard Olson’s lab, where he developed approaches for utilizing yeast artificial chromosomes (YACs) to construct physical maps of DNA. His work also included initiation of a project to construct a complete physical map of human chromosome 7.

In 1992, he became an assistant professor of pathology, genetics, and medicine as well as a co-investigator in the Human Genome Center at Washington University. In 1994, he moved his research laboratory to the intramural program of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) at the National Institutes of Health. In November, 2009 he was appointed Director of NHGRI, after serving in the roles of NHGRI scientific director, director of NHGRI Division of Intramural Research, Chief of the Genome Technology Branch and that branches Physical Mapping Section, and Director of the NIH Intramural Sequencing Center (NISC). His lab’s current focus is on the application of large-scale DNA to study problems in human genomics, genetics, and biology.

Among the numerous awards Eric Green has received are induction into the American Society for Clinical Investigation in 2002 and into the America Association of Physicians in 2007. He is a founding editor of Genome Research, has edited the series, Genome Analysis: A Laboratory Manual, and, since 2005, is co-editor of the Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics.