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Outliers: Patents for DNA shared by humans, cows rankle prof

By Modern Healthcare
Posted: March 30, 2013 - 12:01 am ET

If you're familiar with a certain late-period Marlon Brando movie, recent news could conjure up some creepy images.

It seems some researchers are questioning the ethics of patent ownership, and one concern is that DNA patents can cross species boundaries.

That's right. A company that owns a patent for cow breeding has explicit claims for DNA sequences as small as 15 nucleotides that matched 84% of human genes, according to a study published in March in Genomic Medicine.

“It seems silly that a patent designed to study cow genetics also claims the majority of human genes,” Dr. Jeffrey Rosenfeld, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey and a co-author of the study, said in a news release.

While no one is saying the gene patent holders have any fiendish plans like Brando's character in “The Island of Dr. Moreau,” it does pose a rather beastly legal problem. Good thing the U.S. Supreme Court will be taking on a case this month to clarify the law on gene patents.

These cows don't seem very amused by the news, either.
Photo credit: Getty Images

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