Recorded: 29 May 2003
I think it is extremely naïve to say that there shouldn’t be patents because companies can do really good things by having resources to put into drug discovery and things like that so they have to have a certain amount of protection against these very, very large investments. I think the real challenge is to refashion our patent law so it’s not quite so global and indiscriminate. That is in biology I think patents should be focused on specific assays of what the gene or protein does and I don’t think it should give you ownership for everything that gene or protein does even if you don’t know anything about most of the other kinds of activities. So I think the issue isn’t to get rid of patents because that isn’t really going to happen but it’s to think much more deeply about how patent protection can provide companies with what it needs without paralyzing opportunity both from academics and from other companies.
Leroy Hood, a leading scientist in molecular biotechnology and genomics, received his M.D. from Johns Hopkins Medical School (1964) and his Ph.D. in biochemistry from Caltech (1968). In 1992, after more than 20 years as a faculty member at Caltech, where he and his colleagues revolutionized genomics by developing automated DNA sequencing, he relocated to the University of Washington to establish the cross-disciplinary Department of Molecular Biotechnology.
Dr. Hood is currently President of the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle where he leads efforts to pioneer systems approaches to biology and medicine. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and has received the Lasker Award for his studies on the mechanism of immune diversity.
Sharing an interest in the study of antibody diversity, Hood and Watson met in 1967 when Hood attended his first meeting at CSHL. Leroy has been working on the genome since the late 70’s. He went to the first official genome meeting in Santa Cruz in 1985 and has attended all of the subsequent meetings which have been held at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.