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AUSTRALIAN JUDGE MAPS OUT BATTLE OVER HUMAN GENOME RIGHTS
To hear Justice Michael Kirby tell it, there is an ongoing clash between developed and developing countries over access to research on the Human Genome. Kirby, one of seven justices on the High Court of Australia, knows of what he speaks. He sits on three bodies devoted to sorting out these intellectual property issues.
In a visit to Penn Law School last fall, Kirby said member states of the World Trade Organization want the right to protect Human Genome information, while UNESCO, the UN organization that promotes worldwide collaboration through science and education, says it is important to share knowledge in places that don’t have the resources to do research. Much of Human Genome research is done in Third World countries, where genetic disorders are prevalent and the cost to gather data is cheap. Kirby said India and China fear that these countries will be the source of genetic breakthroughs but not share in the “genetic dividend.”
Kirby heralded The Human Genome Project, begun in 1990, as a “significant development in human knowledge and human medicine.” By identifying gene patterns that appear in particular disorders, we can uncover information that predicts who is prone to a disease and develop better treatments, Kirby said.
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