Human Genome Sciences Inc. (HGSI) of Rockville, Md., has signed anagreement with The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) andSmithKline Beecham Corp. (SKB) to begin work on a data base ofhuman cDNA sequences. The agreement calls for making the dataavailable to the scientific community "for research purposes on termsthat protect the intellectual property and other rights of HGSI, TIGRand SKB."Jonathan Cool, HGSI's director of business development, toldBioWorld that the data base will be up and running in October but thathe cannot disclose how the companies will protect their data or how thedata base will work. TIGR is engaged in an effort to map the humangenome and HGSI committed $85 million to TIGR in 1992 inexchange for commercial rights to its gene sequence data. In addition,HGSI in May 1993 signed a $125 million pact with SKB giving certaincommercial rights to that company.Although HGSI has filed at least 25 patents on gene sequence data,none have yet been granted. When the National Institutes of Health(NIH) attempted to obtain patents on gene sequences it obtainedthrough the same methods used by TIGR, it touched off a storm ofcontroversy. The heart of the issue: whether patents should be grantedon genes whose function is unknown or for which only partialsequences are known. The NIH abandoned its patent quest last year.A report on the touchy issue is due from the Office of TechnologyAssessment in the next two months. The report is entitled, "The HumanGenome Project and Patenting Human DNA Sequences."HGSI's Cool also told BioWorld that HGSI, TIGR and SKB willpublish a paper in a scientific journal in the near future that will includea progress report on their collaborative human genome mapping work._ Lisa Piercey
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