WASHINGTON -- The National Institutes of Health has madepublic its controversial application for patent protection forfragments of DNA discovered by government scientists.

Reid Adler, director of NIH's Office of Technology Transfer, onTuesday told BioWorld that he has provided copies of theapplication to the Industrial Biotechnology Association (IBA),the Association of Biotechnology Companies (ABC) and theAmerican Intellectual Property Law Association. Theassociations have made the application available to theirmembers.

The 116-page application, which was filed in February, is acontinuation in part of an application filed last year. Theapplications cover about 2,400 DNA sequences derived fromthe brain by scientists from the National Institute ofNeurological Disorders.

NIH's decision to file the applications has created controversyamong industry, academic and government groups in theUnited States and abroad, who are disturbed because NIH hasnot researched the characteristics or potential uses of thefragments.

The agency has said the applications are intended to encouragediscussion about the best ways to transfer government-fundedtechnology to the private sector and to protect U.S.competitiveness.

Adler continued to stress on Tuesday that the filing was madeto preserve the government's patent rights in advance of thepublication of sequences in academic journals. He said NIH hasnot made a final decision about pursuing the patent.

NIH is working with the biotechnology trade associations todetermine the best way to treat the issue, Adler said. BruceMackler, general counsel to the ABC, said his group isparticularly interested in discussing the NIH's eventuallicensing policy.

Intellectual property committees at both the ABC and IBA haveyet to make formal recommendations on the governmentpatenting issue.

-- Steve Usdin BioWorld Washington Bureau

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.