Patent or be damned

October 9, 1998

Scientists must patent their work faster if European biotechnology is to catch up with the United States, Sandy Thomas, a research fellow at Sussex University, will tell a Brussels meeting of biotechnologists next week.

Many of Europe's scientists fear that patenting research that could revolutionise healthcare will restrict information exchange and encourage secrecy.

Dr Thomas, of Sussex's science policy research unit, said: "Scientists should be helped to become more aware about when and what to publish and patent."

Delays in publishing research because of patenting considerations could be worthwhile if it meant it benefited the European biotechnology industry.

"Europe is underachieving when it comes to commercialising its biotechnology research," she said.

European scientists should not regard patenting and publishing as mutually exclusive activities. But Dr Thomas, who directs the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, said the council was "very concerned" about indiscriminate patenting of genes and sequences of DNA by industry when there is little or no information about their possible uses.

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