BIO Responds To Clinton, Blair Statement On Gene-Based Health-Care Research

WASHINGTON, DC (March 14, 2000) The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) issued the following response to the statement made today by President Bill Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair on scientific research involving human DNA sequence information:

"The joint Clinton-Blair statement acknowledges the vital role that patents play in providing an incentive for this research," said Chuck Ludlam, BIO's vice president for government relations.

In their statement, Ludlam observed, Clinton and Blair said: "Intellectual property protection for gene-based inventions will also play an important role in stimulating development of important new health-care products."

Ludlam added, "It is quite clear that no patent would ever be issued for raw fundamental genome sequences, the type of data covered in the Clinton-Blair statement. Generating this raw data - something that a machine can do - is not an invention for which a patent is appropriate.

"All patents do is prevent the theft of a company's gene-based genome inventions by another company. Patents do not confer ownership of the invention and do not inhibit academic research that is not part of a commercial venture.

"The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) is now setting guidelines that will determine when patents on gene-based inventions are appropriate. Responses to the PTO proposed guidelines are due March 22 and BIO will file comments generally favorable to the standards the PTO has suggested," Ludlam said.

"We have a hundred years of genome research to do and we need the full participation of the public and private sectors to understand what this genetic information means. The genetic data will help reveal the cause of some 5,000 genetic diseases and will accelerate development of new drugs and vaccines to treat them," Ludlam concluded.

BIO represents more than 900 companies, academic institutions and biotech associations in 47 states and 26 nations. BIO members are involved in the research and development of health-care, agricultural, industrial and environmental biotechnology products.