After 17 years of wending its way through the maze of the Canadian court system the "Harvard mouse" has reached a blind alley. The Canadian Supreme Court ruled Thursday by a five–to–four decision that the transgenic mouse is not an invention and cannot be patented in Canada. This makes Canada the only Western nation to deny a patent to the cancer-prone mouse also known as the OncoMouse.

The Harvard mouse is engineered so that relatively small amounts of insulting substances in experimental settings will bring on tumors. "The same carcinogens would work in any normal animal," noted Dan Dumount, director of molecular and cell biology at Sunnybrook and Women's College Health Science Center in Toronto, "but you would probably need three or four times as many animals and carry on the study twice as long."

In a practical sense, it is unclear just how much the ruling diminished the intellectual...

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