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nosmokes Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-31-07 04:00 PM
Original message
Yellowstone biopiracy
It seems like this all fits, just barely, into the law.But like everything else regarding extraction rights on public lands, it desperately needs revision.
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original-wyomingnews

Thermus Aquaticus

By Shauna Stephenson

Our story this week begins with a tiny life-form invisible to the naked eye.

Its name is Thermus aquaticus, a small bacterium originally found in hot springs at Yellowstone National Park.

A small worm-like structure, it thrives at about 160 degrees Fahrenheit, using things like methane, hydrogen gas or hydrogen sulfide rather than sunlight for energy. It's a member of the kingdom of microbes that first evolved on this planet about 3.5 billion years ago, a kingdom so immense scientists only have an inkling of its possibilities.

It is a strange sounding bugger, but an important one.

Despite archaic beginnings, Thermus aquaticus holds the key to a chain of events that brings us to a very modern conundrum involving the national park, an arduous lawsuit brought by groups of conservationists, a pending release of a much-awaited Environmental Impact Statement and a story known to some as "the great Taq rip-off."

Let's start where all good stories do - at the beginning.

Where it all began

In 1966, Thomas Brock, a Ph.D. at Indiana University, and Hudson Freeze, an undergraduate student, were conducting research at Yellowstone National Park.

Brock and Freeze were interested in thermophiles and collected pink bacteria and small samples of mats from the outflow channel of Mushroom Spring.

Later that fall, Freeze isolated a strain from the bacteria, and he and Brock published a paper naming the organism Thermus aquaticus, also known as Taq. The paper was a scientific milestone, proving that organisms could live at higher temperatures.

The cultures of Taq were deposited in the American Type Culture Collection in Washington D.C., a sort of savings account for biological materials.

Almost 20 years later, Kary Mullis, a researcher for the American company Cetus Corporation, invented a procedure that sped up the replication of DNA, a process named polymerase chain reaction, or PCR. Prior to that, DNA amplification was slow because the materials couldn't tolerate the heat required.

The new procedure was made possible when Mullis introduced an enzyme discovered in Thermus aquaticus (later called Taq polymerase), the same microbe Brock had deposited in the American Type Culture Collection years before. The process won a Nobel Prize and is widely used today

At the time, the sample of Taq was purchased by Cetus Corporation for only $35.

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complete article here
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HiFructosePronSyrup Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-31-07 04:05 PM
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1. thank goodness for Kary Mullis and his work.
I really don't think the park should get any money for this. It'd be like Yosemite Park Rangers suing Ansel Adams for using their mountain in his photographs.
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Odin2005 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-31-07 04:13 PM
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2. Ditto. I'm a Biotech major so I use Taq DNA polymerase often in my labs.
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TZ Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Aug-31-07 04:39 PM
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3. And its not like the park actually contributed to the new technology
The scientists at the company Cetus Corporation aren't using the microbe per se but using an enzyme from it.
Following your logic, if somebody gets a successful malaria vaccine on the market using recombinant technology (ie based on the genetics of the parasite) would owe a country where the parasite resides most commonly would have to pay royalties. You may not like it but free markets/biotechnological innovation does NOT work that way.
Finally because I get annoyed with articles that aren't accurate--ATCC is NOT located in Washington, DC..but in Manassas, Va.
Somebody needs to check their facts.
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DCKit Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-01-07 06:20 AM
Response to Reply #3
4. "Somebody" also needs to realize that the genes in my body shouldn't be patented. nt
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