Day 73. Owning genes

In October 2012 on October 24, 2012 at 2:01 pm

My friend Heather Bray is a scientist and communicator who never sits still.

This Friday she is running a workshop for the University of Adelaide:  Patenting Human Genes Workshop – ethics, regulation and innovation in biotechnology.   

What does patenting human genes mean? In essence it boils down to ownership of genetic information.

To give a hypothetical example, say I discover that your daughter has an unusual gene which makes her resistant to catching malaria. Should I as the scientist then be able to lay claim to ownership of that genetic information? Do I solely own the knowledge, or does she as well? What about her siblings, and her children in the future – do they own it too? Could I use that genetic information in a private setting to design new drugs which make me rich? Is it different if I release the information and resulting new drugs to the public sector so that millions of lives in sub-Saharan African and Asia are saved every year?

So many important questions to think about, and I think the workshop promises to be a great couple of hours.

The event is free, however bookings are essential. Please register through Eventbrite or contact Dr Heather Bray ( Here’s some relevant extra information from the event flier:

Patenting Human Genes Workshop – ethics, regulation and innovation in biotechnology

Are patents on genes really patents on innovations? What should be patentable? Should organisations ‘own’ exclusive rights to human genetic information? How would researchers attract the investment needed to fund research if the patenting environment were to change? How do we ensure that society continues to benefit from research which may lead to accessible tests and treatments?

These questions and more will be discussed at a small-scale workshop to discuss gene patenting in the Australian context.


  • Dr Robert Chalmers, ARI, University of Adelaide
  • Professor Dianne Nichol, Faculty of Law, University of Tasmania
  • Professor Ian Olver AM, CEO, Cancer Council of Australia
  • Dr Luigi Palombi, Intellectual Property Law Consultant
  • Ms Melissa Parke MP, Federal Member for Fremantle

Facilitator: Associate Professor Rachel Ankeny, University of Adelaide

When: Friday October 26 from 1.30 pm to 5.30 pm (refreshments from 4.45pm)
Where: B03 Seminar Room West, Masonic Lodge, North Terrace

[photo thanks to certified su on flickr]


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