Should a business or individual be allowed to patent a human gene? Genes are what make the human body work. They are naturally created and not something that is invented. Yet the concept of gene patenting does have some benefits that may make it a beneficial decision to allow it to happen. Do the benefits outweigh the risks? Let’s take a look.
The Pros of Gene Patenting
1. It allows for research to happen without competition.
The pressures of competition can lead to research errors or a lack of profitability. Some companies don’t have the financial support necessary to compete, which means they won’t even get involved in gene research in the first place. Without competition, it becomes possible for the experts to really look at the gene itself.
2. It supports private innovation.
Without gene patenting, it would be possible for a company to potential copy research and develop similar therapies without the same level of investment. A patent would encourage harder work and more creativity that is fueled by the chance for real profit.
3. It would allow for more private investment.
Investors like to see returns on their money. Science often doesn’t provide this opportunity. With a gene patent available, however, there would be the chance to get a return and that would create more long-term research dollars.
The Cons of Gene Patenting
1. It could hinder research.
Gene patents fall under intellectual property rights. This means that a business would own a patent for up to 20 years on a specific gene. Other companies would not be allowed to perform research on this gene during that period of time, which limits the possibilities of a breakthrough discovery.
2. It would create a market of exclusivity.
Research companies could research genes and then patent them, creating a market where only a few companies are creating medical treatments. This would likely raise costs without raising treatment standards.
3. There are diagnostic delays.
Companies that hold gene patents hold the rights to test for those specific genes. This can create delays in a diagnosis and sometimes patients may only have days to get started on their treatments.
The pros and cons of gene patenting show that there is some potential for good, but some potential for some really bad events occurring as well. Is it the right course of action to take? That’s a decision that likely requires some more debate.
Crystal Lombardo is a contributing editor for Vision Launch. Crystal is a seasoned writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience. She has been an editor of three popular blogs that each have had over 500,000 monthly readers.