Recorded: 31 May 2003
This is an evolving field. This is very difficult and I think that emotionally one can say that it is either very good or not so good. I think the main point is what are we trying to accomplish? If patents stand in the way of free discovery, then it is definitely a bad thing. But patents we know can be used as really a stimulus for additional discoveries. So I don’t think patents per say have to be viewed as only good or not so good. But there clearly have to be some elements of the basic information that we discover that should be free. And the human genome sequence is obviously one such large amount of biological information that has to be available free.
Specific genes—I know that there’s a lot of work that goes behind in trying to find the details of what a single gene does. And I think patents on very specific things on genes actually might even be a very good idea. But I think broad patents are not very useful. And so I think it will depend on the nature of patents. And it will depend ultimately as many things do on the behavior of individuals who hold these patents.
I think patents served in a particular way can be actually very, very useful. Whether that’s exactly what we are doing is a separate question and we need to really look at our behavior as to whether it’s really retarding science. In some cases it clearly has. And we really need to be very aggressive about some mechanism so that we can have self corrections on this issue. But the basic information has to be available in a very open way because otherwise we wouldn’t take the next several steps.
Aravinda Chakravarti received his Ph.D. in Human Genetics from the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston (1979). After a postdoctoral year at the University of Washington in Seattle, he joined the faculty at the University of Pittsburgh in the Department of Biostatistics and later the Department of Human Genetics as a professor.
In 1994 he moved to Case Western Reserve as Professor of Genetics and Medicine to apply genomic and computer-based methods to study common diseases that arise from a combination of genetic and non-genetic factors.
Dr Chakravarti is one of the Editors-in-Chief of Genome Research, and serves on the Advisory and Editorial Boards of numerous national and international journals and societies. He is a past member of the NIH National Advisory Council of the National Human Genome Research Institute and has chaired the NIH Subcommittee in the 3rd 5-year Genome Project Plan, and continues to serve on several NIH panels.
In 2000 he became Professor of Medicine at The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and was named director of their new McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine, where he is currently the Henry J. Knott Professor and Director.