Eric Lander on Gene Patenting
  Eric Lander     Biography    
Recorded: 02 Jun 2003

The patenting question is a whole other question. What Craig was talking about was about locking up the information. That's different. I mean-what's clear from this symposium is that all the power is coming from intersecting this data set and that data set and this data set. And if you were to pay subscriptions to this one and that one and this one and that one, if that was the model we went to-that basic knowledge was a proprietary entity and you had to pay. Then you wouldn't be in free-wheeling fashion downloading fourteen data sets, intersecting them, learning things. All of the power of the medical application is going to come because the data are freely available to intersect.

Patents are a whole other story. There are reasons to patent some genes, etc., etc. But whether they are patented or not, knowledge-where you know there are entities, physical entities are patented, inventions are patented-knowledge has to be freely available because you don't know what combination to put it in. So you don't know which bit to buy and you don't know which person is going to make the connections. Whether it's some, you know, person in a company, or some kid in India who can't afford to pay a subscription or something. It was a big deal question. In the end it was the question we went to war over; whether the data were going to be freely, freely available and in the end we won that war. It was unambiguous. By the time we were done, it was very clear that the data would be freely available.

Eric Lander earned his A.B. in mathematics from Princeton University (1978) and D.Phil. in mathematics as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University (1981).

He first came to the Whitehead Institute as a Whitehead Fellow in 1986, while still an assistant professor of managerial economics at the Harvard Business School and is currently Director of the Whitehead Center for Genome Research and Professor of Biology at MIT. As director of the Whitehead Center for Genome Research, Dr Lander has been one of the principal leaders of the Human Genome Project, contributing 30 percent of the total sequence of the human genome and developing and making freely available many of the key tools used in modern mammalian genomics.

He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and has been awarded the Beckman Prize for Lab Automation, the Chiron Prize for Biotechnology, and the Gairdner Award for his outstanding contribution to genomic research.

Lander has attended every human genome meeting at CSHL. At the request of Jim Watson, Lander gave his first lecture at the 1986 CSHL symposium on the Molecular Biology of Homo Sapiens.