24 de febrer 2016

Genome editing: a potential weapon of mass destruction

The Patent Dispute Over Gene Editing Technologies: The Broad Institute, Inc. vs. The Regents of the University of California

Nobody could imagine two decades ago that a small part of wide range of bacteria's immune system could represent so much for genome editing. Known as CRISPR, clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats, such mechanism can recognise and defend against viruses. The other part of the defense mechanism is a set of enzymes called Cas that can cut DNA and avoid the invasion of viruses. Mostly, these research was originated in Les Salines d'Alacant by Francisco Mojica a microbiologist.
As far as this is a natural process Dr. Mojica didn't show interest in patenting it. Now the row over patents is hot between UC Berkeley and the Broad Institute. I will skip details, you may find it in The Economist.
It seems that the fight is only to determine who was the first, and the Court will have to decide on March 9th. However, my question is: why is it still possible to file a patent over human nature?.
Meanwhile the public debate may be moved towards the use of such CRISPR technology for genome editing, and Science was publishing an article about the threat that misuse represents for human beings. Are we facing a new weapon of mass destruction?
Both issues, patents and bioethical implications are crucial at the moment. Former examples provide clear guidance of outcomes that should be avoided. Unfortunately, the race for the biggest size of the pie (billions of $) seems to be a priority over health and humanity.