In an unpresedented move, the journal Science announced departure from its tradition of depositing published sequences in GenBank/EMBL/DNA Database of Japan. It is allowing a company, Celera Genomics, to retain control of access to the sequence described in a submitted paper.
Celera stipulated it will only publish its human genome sequence if the data are retained exclusively on its own website. Celera is limiting users to downloading no more than one mega byte of data from its human genome sequence databank, despite previously announcing it would "make the entire sequence available free of charge". Those seeking larger downloads have to submit a letter from their institution, promising not to redistribute the information.
Researchers are outraged by the news and concerned it will encourage fragmentation of genetic data resources, restrict dissemination, suppress competition, encumber bioinformatics and hamper the development of better-annotated versions of the human genome sequence. By refusing full access to researchers who are not subscribers they are effectively delaying progress in making sense of the data.
The issue of access may be solved once the public project reaches wider coverage over the next two years. Celera currently lays claim on some 6,500 gene patents.
Source: "Slippery Slope?", Editorial, Nature Biotechnology Vol 19 , p1