The battle over the extent of Cetus Corp.’s right to claim royalties on products resulting from the use of the company’s patented DNA amplification technology hasn’t kept other entrepreneurial companies from pursuing their piece of the PCR profit pie. Indeed, the explosive demand for this technology—some analysts estimate that by the year 2000 the market for DNA amplification tools will be as high as $1.5 billion—has spawned science s newest copycat industry.

Much of the knowledge to undertake DNA amplification is in the public domain. The primary instrument needed is a heating block, a device common to labs. The other key ingredient is the Taq polymerase enzyme, which comes from bacteria originally found in hot springs. To perform DNA amplification, a target strand of DNA is placed in a tube in the heating block, enzyme and primers are added, and, through a series of automated heating and cooling cycles, the...

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