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Biopatents

Japan Enters Race to Patent Life

A Japanese genomics company, Dragon Genomics, has joined the race to patent life and aims to become Asia's biggest gene-sequencing operation. It has applied for a 'business method patent' in Japan that covers a model allowing investors to buy shares in its gene sequencing projects. It aims to attract investors that have money to spend but little technical capacity.

The sequencing will be done on a contract basis for corporations and academic researchers. A separate company will handle the distribution of information to pharmaceutical companies and other interested parties, and distribute the profits to shareholders. A webpage will enable investors to monitor sequencing progress, patent applications and licensing agreements.

Sequencing is planned for the chimpanzee, silkworm, tuna and whale genomes, as well as seaweed and mushroom species thought to have medical value. A representative of Dragon revealed the ruling ethos of the company, "biotechnology is a very competitive field and this is an era for patenting everything and anything." Shares in the company will be available sometime during 2001.
Source: David Cyranoski, Tokyo, Japanese genomics company offers shares in sequences. Nature 408, No 6815, p 889, 2000.

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