Gerald Rubin on Gene Patenting
  Gerald Rubin     Biography    
Recorded: 30 May 2003

I mean, first of all, I know Craig Venter pretty well. And I think he was driven by wanting to know the sequence of the human genome. And he went to the company because that is who would give him the money to do it, and he couldn’t get the money from the government. So I don’t he was ever driven by anything, I think he was driven by the same inner demons and forces that drove Bob Waterston, or John Sulston or anyone else to actually want to achieve this project. It’s just that people made different compromises to get their resources that they need. I think as far as patenting, you know, if you look at who owns the patents on genes, most of them are owned by scientists who work for universities, not for companies. So I don’t think that, there’s a problem that the standards of what it takes to get a patent on a gene are too low. You don’t know have to know enough about function, you just have the sequence and you can say, I patent this gene. So I think there’s been a mistake in how easy it was made to patent genes without knowing a lot about function. But if you look at, you know, when Celera was started and everyone was criticizing is there a patent on genes; in fact, Francis Collins had more gene patents that Craig Venter had gene patents at that point. So I think that now universities are encouraged to patent genes. I mean, we’re told if we have a gene sequence. So, I think if there’s a problem, then the problem is with the U.S. patent system.

Gerald Rubin is a geneticist, molecular and cell biologist. As Director of the Berkeley Drosophila Genome Project, he led the sequencing of the entire fruit fly genome. Currently, as Vice President and Director of the Janelia Farm Research Campus at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Ashburn, Virginia, his research focus is on developing the biological and computer tools that are capable of analyzing and displaying the vast amount of information available from the genomic DNA sequencing of the fruit fly. He uses these advanced techniques to decipher gene regulation and expression at a genome-wide level in Drosophila and determine the function of certain fruit fly genes.

Gerald Rubin is also a professor of Genetics and Development at the University of California, Berkeley. He came to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory as an URP (Undergraduate Research Program) in the early 70’s working under Lionel Crawford and Ray Gesteland before moving to Cambridge to earn his Ph.D. in molecular biology. He did postdoctoral work at Stanford University School of Medicine and became an assistant professor of biological chemistry at Harvard Medical School prior to commencing his genetics professorship at Berkeley in 1983.

Gerald Rubin is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine. Among the awards he has received is the American Chemical Society Eli Lilly Award in biological chemistry.