Recorded: 31 May 2003
So, yeah, I am concerned about patents because patents do tend to restrict the flow of information [or] restrict the ability of others to do research in particular areas. I’m kind of a pragmatist, and I guess it seems that patent protection is a necessity at some level for companies, the private sector, to invest the money it takes to develop a novel discovery. And the same is true of genes as of any other scientific discovery.
I do that patents should be limited to use, should be very specific, so that a company—I mean, there was a debate fairly early on as to whether it was acceptable for companies to patent huge numbers of genes for which nothing was known about the function, I think that is not a good idea to do that. Fortunately, I believe those patents are in something of a precarious position.
But the company that discovers an important therapeutic important therapy involving some particular gene, it may be reasonable for them to have a patent. It would be good if the lifetime of the patent could be reduced because the time period for patents was originally specified was in the framework where it took a long time to develop the applications. I’m not sure that that is still true these days. But probably you do need some limited period of protecting for companies to invest what it takes to develop therapies and so forth.
Philip Green is a professor of genome sciences, an adjunct professor of the Computer Science and Engineering Department at the University of Washington, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, and was recently elected into the National Academy of Sciences.
Green designs software packages which aid in making genetic maps and identifying genes within the genome. He is concerned with constructing computational tools to understand cell functioning at a molecular level. Green has created the program Phred, which manages the data generated by the Human Genome Project and which is being used to help determine the most common variations in human DNA. Green’s laboratory is working to construct a gene-annotated genome sequence. His lab has modified the number of genes thought to be in the human genome—it is substantially fewer than had been previously believed.
Green spoke at the 68th Cold Spring Harbor Symposium focused on the Genome of Homo Sapiens.