December 18, 2010
SCIENTIFIC research, sustained by patents, is under threat from an ill-considered biotech bill.
IN 1873 French scientist Louis Pasteur, the inventor of pasteurisation and the first vaccine for rabies, was granted a patent for a germ-free pure preparation of yeast for industrial processes.
In fact, novel patents on purified preparations of biological material have been granted since the 1840s.
In an open letter to the Australian parliament, University of Queensland biotechnology program director Ross Barnard makes these points in a powerful argument against the Patent Amendment (Human Genes and Biological Materials) Bill 2010 introduced into the Senate in late November.
The bill would prohibit the patenting of biological material.
As Barnard points out, there is a long history of patents granted for purified preparations of biological material and there is no need for the law to be changed.
As a result of such patented research since the 1840s, human life expectancy has increased, infant mortality has dramatically reduced and the world is a much healthier place.
Such research, sustained by patents, has laid the foundation for our modern society.
Now Liberal senators Bill Heffernan and Helen Coonan, independent senator Nick Xenophon and Greens senator Rachel Siewert want to shackle Australian scientific research to the time when Queen Victoria of Britain married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha 170 years ago.
Sadly, the proponents do not fully understand the bill’s impact on scientific research, and if this is a consequence of minority federal government then the sooner we have an election to get a government with a clear mandate that values our scientific research institutions and innovation the better.
This bill is Australia’s version of 21st century Luddite thinking…..
Australian researchers have a proud record of medical research which has improved human life at home and around the world. The record includes:
► The cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil developed by former Australian of the Year, Ian Frazer, at the University of Queensland.
It has been administered to millions of women worldwide and is now being considered for secondary school-aged boys as well as girls.
► The Cochlear hearing implant.
► Diagnostics for breast and ovarian cancer, epilepsy and tuberculosis.
Australia cannot afford to jeopardise this world-class research.