The decision on whether the National Institutes of Health should continue its quest for patents on partial human cDNA sequences now rests with Health and Human Services secretary Louis Sullivan. In September, NIH director Bernadine Healy revealed that the agency had received an initial rejection from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) for the approximately 2,700 partial gene sequences generated by former NIH researcher Craig Venter and others.

Then, on October 5, an HHS spokesperson said that Secretary Sullivan would be briefed on the situation by the end of that week, and that he would issue his decision "shortly thereafter" on whether NIH should shelve the patents or respond to objections raised in the PTO rejection and continue with the process.

The partial DNA sequences covered in the patents, also known as expressed tag sequences (ESTs), are thought to be useful tools to locate complete gene sequences. But...

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