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Cloning technique patents granted

25 January 2000
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 42

Patents for nuclear transfer cloning have been granted to the Edinburgh-based researchers who created Dolly the sheep, almost five years after they were filed for by the Roslin Institute. This is thought to be the most significant patenting in the field of therapeutic cloning, a market worth billions of pounds.

The American company, Geron Biomed, which merged with the Roslin Institute offshoot company Roslin Biomed last year, now shares the licenses for the technology with Roslin. Any researchers can continue to use the Dolly method of cloning, but the patents mean that anyone who wants to commercialise a resulting treatment would have to pay a fee to the Geron Corporation. Geron will now work with British scientists to develop technology to treat degenerative diseases such as Parkinson's and osteo-arthritis and techniques that could help to produce human 'spare parts'.

Geron announced in 1998 that it had made a breakthrough in cultivating embryo stem-cell. Cloning science and stem-cell research could together provide the opportunity to treat conditions that were previously thought to be untreatable. The UK government is considering the ethical issues surrounding this, and has yet to authorise the research.

Claims have been made that the patents would hold up research progress, because of fears that other researchers would have to pay to use the science and that one company would have total control over a revolutionary science. A Roslin spokesman said that such fears are unfounded. The patents allow cloning research for medical reasons to continue for free, but biotechnology and pharmaceutical firms will have to pay if they carry out cloning experiments to aid profit.

The managing director of Geron Biomed in Scotland said that 'patents gave investors security for what would be years of research. It creates the pressures to make sure this technology is applied and developed. We have absolutely no desire not to see every possible application of this technology made use of.'

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Dolly the sheep team granted patents on cloning
The Independent |  21 January 2000
Firm wins the right to clone billions from Dolly
The Daily Mail |  21 January 2000
Scientists patent cloning technique
The Guardian |  21 January 2000
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