James Wyngaarden on Gene Patenting
  James Wyngaarden     Biography    
Recorded: 18 Aug 2003

Well, I’ve already described how that has evolved. Now genes can be patented only if they are part of a process that has a product, and the product has potential commercial utility. And for all this argument about patenting and so on, I don’t think that this has interfered with the great majority of sequences being deposited in databanks that are accessible to everyone.

It’s not true of every last one. Companies such as Human Genome Sciences have retained the sequence information on a limited number of them that are essential to products that they are developing. On the other hand they are willing to allow scientists access to that information only for research purposes, but they have to sign certain agreements with the company. And that’s been a little bit distasteful but I think that it’s probably a reasonable compromise.

James B. Wyngaarden is a medical doctor, biochemist and medical science advisor. He served as director of the National Institutes of Health, associate director for Life Sciences in the Office of Science and Technology Policy, Executive Office of the President, and as director of the Human Genome Organization. Wyngaarden is currently part of the Washington Advisory Group, LLC and director of four biotechnology/pharmaceutical companies. Wyngaarden is also co-author of the textbook The Metabolic Basis of Inherited Disease.

He researches the regulation of purine biosynthesis, the production of uric acid and he helped initiate the use of allopurinol, a drug developed as an anticancer agent and now used as a treatment for gout. While serving as director of the National Institutes of Heath, he enlisted the help of Dr. Watson in 1988 to begin the Human Genome Project. Jim obliged and joined the NIH as the associate director for Human Genome Research, while still acting as director of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.