Scientists are busily filing for legal patents that give them exclusive intellectual property rights. Image: AFP
Scientists are busily filing for legal patents that give them exclusive intellectual property rights for each discovery they make in the hopes that one day, one will lead to a blockbuster cure and big cash for those who devised it.
But the process means that U.S. scientists -- already stymied by years of government funding freezes linked to controversy over the destruction of human embryos -- often find themselves blocked because other universities or private companies have already secured exclusive rights.
"You just have this complete minefield out there and you know who the victims are? It's the patients," said Bob Lanza, chief scientific officer at Advanced Cell Technology, which is researching the use of human embryonic stem cells to halt some forms of blindness.
Lanza recalls bumping up against his company's main competitor, Geron Corporation, when it came to researching stem cells in reversing diabetes, a process he said he had been working on with animals for many years.
"When I came to ACT to try to do it with stem cells I couldn't because the rights to use embryonic stem cells for diabetes had been exclusively licensed to Geron," he said.
"Here I was, a scientist trying to cure diabetes and I couldn't use my entire lifetime of expertise to try and develop that technology," he said.
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