Battle Pending

WHO OWNS THE GENOME?

Pity the beleaguered U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Even before last week's announcement by Celera, applications for patents on human genes were pouring in by the thousands. Biotech firms are seeking rights to genes that might control everything from the neurotransmitters in your brain to susceptibility to chronic diseases. The frenzy is rekindling fears that a few corporations will end up controlling a priceless resource.

Already, skirmishes have broken out between university-based researchers, many allied with the Human Genome Project, and small, aggressive firms like Celera, Incyte and Human Genome Sciences. These companies are churning out patent claims almost as...

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