Center for Bioethics Papers

Document Type

Journal Article

Date of this Version

October 2005


This article examines what it means to patent a gene. Numerous ethical concerns have been raised about the effects of such patents on clinical medical practice as well as on research and development. We describe what kinds of inventions are covered by human gene patents, give several examples and summarize the small body of empirical research performed in the US examining the effects of these patents. There is little evidence that early fears about gene patenting placing substantial restraints on research and clinical medicine have come to fruition. Nonetheless, there are areas of concern, and policy makers, physicians and the public should be alert to ensure that the net social benefits of patenting human genes are maintained.


Postprint version. Published in Community Genetics, Volume 8, Issue 4, October 2005, pages 203-208.
Publisher URL:


gene patent, genetic invention, drug licensing



Date Posted: 21 May 2007

This document has been peer reviewed.