Do patents on genetic information hinder research? That long-festering debate arose again recently, following a report in the Guardian newspaper that Great Britain and the United States are negotiating an intergovernmental agreement aimed at preventing entrepreneurs from profiting on such patents.1 Although the accuracy of the report, which drew on documents received under the Freedom of Information Act, was denied by a spokesperson for the Office of Science and Technology Policy's director, Neal Lane, it sparked interest from other U.K. media, including the British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) and Nature.

Celera Genomics of Rockville, Md., is the private company sequencing the human genome in an effort separate from that of the international governmental project. "The notion in the Guardian that we're out to patent all the human genetic information is just not accurate," declares J. Paul Gilman, Celera's director of policy planning. He emphasizes that the company's...

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