Charles Delisi on Gene Patenting
  Charles Delisi     Biography    
Recorded: 08 Sep 2003

Well, you know, sequence can’t be patented. I mean sequence can’t be patented any more than grass can be patented. It’s something of nature. Of course, if we were living in the Middle Ages when hay was invented, hay was very useful. Obviously it changed the demography of Europe. And if they had patents around at the time, hay could have been patented. It was grass in a different form. And I think the same is true of the DNA sequence. The sequence as itself is something of nature, but if you do something with that sequence where there’s a commercial product involved, then yes, I think it can be patented. I don’t think you can own genes, but if a company is going to use that gene and is far enough along the road towards developing a product which is going to be very important medically and it’s going to cost them a lot of money to do it, then I think it makes sense to patent it. But I think we’re over patenting, for sure. And a as a result there is a very complex network now which really impedes progress of small companies because very time they turn to something, they have to take out a license. And some of these licenses are for trivial results and as a result they don’t have the money to pay for all the license. They never get off the ground. So I think patents are a problem and need to approach much more critically in the future than they have in the past.

Charles DeLisi did pioneering work in theoretical and mathematical immunology. He received his Ph.D. in physics and did postdoctoral studies in the chemistry department at Yale University researching RNA structure. He became a theoretical physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory and then moved to the National Institute of Health, where he worked on molecular and cell immunology for ten years.

DeLisi is currently director of the Biomolecular Systems Laboratory, Chair of the Bioinformatics Program, Metcalf Professor of Science and Engineering and Dean Emeritus of the College of Engineering at Boston University.

Charles DeLisi develops computational methods for high throughput genomic and proteomic analysis. His laboratory is helping to develop technologies for fingerprinting the complete molecular state of a cell. He is interested in finding computational methods for determining protein function and researches the structural basis of signal translation by membrane bound receptors, the structural basis of voltage gating, and the docking of peptide hormones and neurotransmitters at their sites of action.

In 1986, DeLisi and Watson met at a CSHL meeting and spoke about their interests in sequencing the human genome.