Genome talks collapse over commercial ownership
"We are committed to ensuring that our DNA sequence results are available to all. We had hoped to find common ground with Celera which would allow them reasonable commercial return, whilst ensuring the best sequence data was published as soon as possible. Unfortunately, Celera's requirements seemed to amount to them establishing an effective monopoly over the human genome."
Professor Martin Bobrow, one of the HGP representatives at the meetings and a Governor of The Wellcome Trust, who fund the UK effort
The talks stumbled when Celera refused to accept a statement of 'Shared Principles' prepared by the HGP participants. The HGP team made repeated attempts to discuss differences with the President of Celera, Dr J. Craig Venter, but received no response from him throughout January and February.
Mr Tony White, the CEO of Celera's parent company, PE Corporation, told the HGP team that Celera would seek to maintain an exclusive licence on the combined data for up to four years and would seek also to licence downstream developments, such as DNA chips used to study genes, from the proposed combined effort. Such demands are not acceptable to the public programme. PE Corporation is the manufacturer of one of the most widely bought DNA sequencing machines.
The HGP is a collaborative effort with major centres in the US, the UK, France Germany and Japan that is dedicated to decoding the book of life - the entire sequence of characters in our genes. Scientists predict that this information will lead to new and better medicines.
A major principle of the HGP is that the sequence results are placed in the public domain within 24 hours of their being obtained. This allows researchers worldwide equal access and promotes new research opportunities and collaborations. Researchers in the field agree that this approach has already been proven successful in understanding the genomes of model organisms such as the nematode worm and the fruit fly.
The HGP remains committed to providing a full-access sequence of the human genome and tools to analyse the sequence as quickly as possible. The failure of these negotiations is regrettable but does not deflect the researchers of the HGP from their goal of producing a draft sequence this year and a final version by 2003. The HGP has sequenced more than twice as many DNA bases as Celera.