Buoyed by enabling legislation and scientific advances, institutions are aggressively shopping their faculties' `blue-sky' investigations.
In just the past year, patents on the genes implicated in obesity, breast cancer, and other disorders have generated headlines in newspapers across the United States. In several of these cases, scientists have turned their patented discoveries into lucrative commercial deals worth several times their funding from other sources--crucial money in light of proposed cuts in the federal government's support for biomedical research. And behind the patents attracting attention in the popular press are an ever-rising number of gene patent applications and awards, according to scientists, patent officials, technology transfer managers, and others.

Despite this increased activity, however, scientists insist that the pursuit of a patentable discovery has not become a driving factor in their research strategies. The patent stories in the newspapers are the rare exceptions rather than the rule, they say, and not...

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