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Commercial Strategies Aim to Spin DNA Threads into Gold
Research scientists who work in public institutions often are troubled by the concept of intellectual property because their norms tell them that science will advance more rapidly if researchers enjoy free access to knowledge. By contrast, the law of intellectual property rests on an assumption that, without exclusive rights, no one will be willing to invest in research and development (R&D).
The argument for patenting public-sector inventions is a variation on the standard justification for patents in commercial settings. The argument is that postinvention development costs typically far exceed preinvention research outlays, and firms are unwilling to make this substantial investment without protection from competition. Patents thus facilitate transfer of technology to the private sector by providing exclusive rights to preserve the profit incentives of innovating firms.
In 1991, The California Supreme Court decided that a newly discovered cancer cell, known as "Mo," and any profits stemming from innovations relating to the cell were the sole property of the researchers who found and patented it. The man, whose body the cells were originally taken from, had no legal claim to ownership or copyright of the cells and could not demand compensation or other redress. The case, known as the John Moore decision, illustrates the legal and ethical dilemmas society faces in the age of biotechnology.
Originally posted by khunmoon
Well, I don't know about Christmas trees recycled to create H5N1 vaccine!!??? Could you tell about it, DJ?
CDC locks up flu data
Amid growing concerns that avian influenza will develop into a deadly pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is under fire by some in the scientific community for hoarding data crucial for vaccine development. The allegations come as CDC has issued new and controversial rules on what data, documents and other information it will - and will not - share with the public. Open government advocates are critical of the CDC's "Information Security" manual, the 34-page document that gives officials 19 categories to shield data from public scrutiny without obtaining a "secret" classification.
Flu researchers slam US agency for hoarding data
Flu researchers slam US agency for hoarding data.
ATSNN: Flu Researchers Slam US for Hoarding Data
ATS: US Reluctant To Share Important Flu Samples
Scientists who are researching influenza say their work is being hindered by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which is withholding data on most of the flu strains that scientists sequence, Reuters reports.
More than 200 scientists employed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service say they have been directed to alter official findings to lessen protections for plants and animals, a survey released Wednesday says.
More than half of the biologists and other researchers who responded to the survey said they knew of cases in which commercial interests, including timber, grazing, development and energy companies, had applied political pressure to reverse scientific conclusions deemed harmful to their business.
"The pressure to alter scientific reports for political reasons has become pervasive at Fish and Wildlife offices around the country," said Lexi Shultz of the Union of Concerned Scientists. ...A biologist in Alaska wrote in response to the survey: "It is one thing for the department to dismiss our recommendations, it is quite another to be forced (under veiled threat of removal) to say something that is counter to our best professional judgment."
The U.S. government is making it harder for scientists to speak to their global colleagues... Rep. Henry Waxman said he has a letter showing that the Health and Human Services Department has imposed new limits on who may speak to the World Health Organization. ...Under the new policy, WHO must ask HHS for permission to speak to scientists and must allow HHS to choose who will respond.
"This policy is unprecedented. For the first time political appointees will routinely be able to keep the top experts in their field from responding to WHO requests for guidance on international health issues,... This is a raw attempt to exert political control over scientists and scientific evidence in the area of international health," Waxman wrote.
"Under the new policy the administration will be able to refuse to provide any experts whenever it wishes to stall international progress on controversial topics."
Concern grows over secrecy at CDC
Nature quoted Michael Deem, a scientist at Rice University, as saying: "Many in the influenza field are displeased with the CDC's practice of refusing to deposit sequences of most of the strains that they sequence." ...Nature's own analyses found that the CDC deposited less than a tenth of the 15,000 influenza A sequences in the gene database Genbank and the influenza sequence database at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. By comparison, a consortium led by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases deposited more than 2,800 sequences this year alone.
One concern the CDC may have about sharing data is how it would affect any partnership it might have with vaccine manufacturers, said David Webster, president of Webster Consulting Group Inc., a health-industry consulting firm.
The CDC might be concerned that those manufacturers might not be able to recoup their investment if the information is widely available.
Mechanical transmission by anything that can walk, crawl, or fly from farm to farm can and will occur. Mammals, like rats and mice, insects (including flies) and wild birds, especially waterfowl can transmit avian influenza. AIV can also be found on the outer surfaces and inside of shell eggs. Transfer of eggs is a potential means of AIV transmission. Airborne transmission of virus from farm to farm probably does not occur. The spread of avian influenza between poultry premises almost always follows the movement of people and equipment.
"In anticipation of a flu pandemic, our top priority is protecting the safety and health of America's working men and women," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Edwin G. Foulke Jr. "Employers and employees should use this guidance to help identify risk levels and implement appropriate control measures to prevent illness in the workplace."
Indonesia's bird-flu snub highlights drug inequity
When Indonesia served notice last week it will not co-operate with a pandemic flu vaccine system that doesn't look after the needs of Indonesians, there was little surprise among international observers who have long worried about the disparities between pandemic haves and have-nots.
Some think Indonesia's shot across the bow may finally force the world to try to rectify the troubling inequities in pandemic preparations.
Developing nations are pressured to contain outbreaks and share viruses for the global good, but are crowded out of pandemic drug and vaccine markets.
Who pays to stop a pandemic?
Bird flu has not yet turned into a pandemic, but it is already killing the meager hopes of some of the world's poorest people for a marginally better life.
When poultry become infected with the deadly strain of avian influenza (H5N1), it is essential that all birds nearby be culled to prevent further spread. We all stand to benefit from this important pandemic prevention strategy, recommended by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Unfortunately, however, the world's poor are unfairly shouldering the burden of the intervention.
.....it is not clear how Jakarta's poor will replace the income they once received from chickens and other birds. When officials impose widespread culling, industrial-scale poultry producers — like the company that owns the large British turkey farm where bird flu was found this month — usually have the resources to absorb the losses. But when the birds of small- scale poultry farmers are culled, entrepreneurs who were just beginning to move up the development ladder can be plunged back into poverty. The most dependent and vulnerable members of the community become even more dependent and vulnerable.
Why Indonesia is blocking a bird flu vaccine
The Indonesian government is refusing to supply bird flu samples to foreign scientists. GlaxoSmithKline has attacked the decision, which will hinder its efforts to develop a human vaccine for the virus.
So what’s the problem? The Indonesians want the World Health Organisation (WHO) to provide guarantees that the samples won’t be used commercially.
The Indonesian government is worried that if it hands over the samples, they’ll go from the WHO to big pharma vaccine-makers such as GSK, who’ll then create vaccines that the poor in developing countries won’t be able to afford.
...some reform of patent law is probably at least part of the solution. As Graham Searjeant points out in The Times, the way patents work has a lot to do with why it’s becoming too expensive to develop cost-effective drugs. “Trials and approval take up an ever bigger chunk out of the typical 20-year patent period,” he says. Because “the clock starts when a chemical is first protected” companies have to charge high prices “to recoup costs and earn returns fast” before the patent expires.