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Genetics, genomics and the patenting of DNA

Review of potential implications for health in developing countries

The Human Genetic Programme (HGN) presents a new report, Genetics, genomics and the patenting of DNA, which addresses the important ethical, legal, social and health issues raised by the patenting of DNA sequences-- not only for the industrialized world, but also for developing countries. Science is now at a critical moment as it attempts to translate voluminous genetic data into practical health tools. It is therefore timely to consider the various incentives and barriers that exist for the creation of practical health interventions of value in poorer settings. The report emphasizes that genomics has the potential to offer great benefit to public health on a global scale, notes the present ambiguity in international agreements on intellectual property rights on the legal status of genetic "inventions", and highlights the ongoing controversy surrounding the patenting of genetic sequences. Finally, acknowledging the present need for more empirical analysis of the scope and nature of the impact of current trends in patenting DNA, the report proposes areas of further exploration that could provide a foundation for the establishment of informed policies.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

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