Although some, like US and European governments, would like to pretend it isn't happening, it's no secret that there has been a huge increase in international patent applications claiming bits and pieces of H5N1 viruses and related vaccines and other treatments.
The overall trends can be monitored by searching on PatentScope, a free international patent application database published by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). If you are new to patents, it might be intimidating at first - patent talk is not plain English - but with a bit of experimentation, searching PatentScope is something anyone can learn to do.
There are three such searches that I have been monitoring for nearly two years now. The results aren't pretty, and they are getting worse. The tidal wave of H5N1 patent claims shows no signs of abating, and is on track in 2008 to meet or exceed 2007, which was already the biggest year of such patent claims on record.
The trend is clear: An emerging "patent thicket" threatens to impair H5N1 research and make vaccines and other treatments unaffordable. But don't count on the US or European governments doing anything about this - they're still in denial mode.
If secondary sources are to be believed, such as this one, then CDC's PR hacks have sallied forth with a pack of lies about their patent claims on Indonesian, Thai, and other H5N1 genes, which were first brought into the public eye by this blog.
There are two main arguments that CDC has been quoted to me as making with respect to my article and related items that have come out in the press. I will refute both of CDC's claims. (More)
This post is really about synthetic biology and influenza; but I want to start by clarifying one thing: If I were free to decide, I'm pretty sure that I would not enshrine into law sovereign rights over creatures great and small.
But I don't get to make the rules, nor do virologists (and not even The Imperial Laurie Garrett, heretofore "TILG", no matter how intolerably super-sized her ego gets). Maybe in another post, on another day, I'll explore how the present legal and treaty situation came to be; but that's not the point now. Instead, let's make the best of the hand we've been dealt. Hint: Folks searching for a gene sovereignty bogeyman can blame, in significant measure, the large mainline environmental organizations.
Today's ugly bellyaching about sovereignty and microbes in the flu science crowd (More)
What planet do the people who claim that flu vaccines aren't patented live on? If they lived here on earth, then a quick search would tell them that there are numerous patent claims on H5N1 and other flu strains, frequently on viral sequences used in possible vaccines.
This morning I ran a quick a search on the World Intellectual Property Organization's PatentScope database for patent applications on (all) influenza vaccines. (Nerds: Int'l Class A61K 39/145.) The graphic above illustrates the result.
Back when I ran the Sunshine Project, and with the help of Third World Network, I wrote a brief item describing how the WHO Global Influenza Surveillance Network could be reformed. We distributed this at a meeting of the WHO Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Intergovernmental Meeting (WHO PIP IGM). (Yes, it's a mouthful.)
The jist of the following nearly year-old article is still about right. I should have given more attention to sequence data, with the rapid rise of synthetic biology; but it's there in rudimentary form. Take a gander at this short piece if you want to know what some of us are thinking about for a New Global System.
I am weary of public health G.I. Joes (and Janes) and other obsessives and their threats that we're all gonna die of bird flu.
I am turned off by the callous and poorly reasoned bashing of foreigners that fills many flu blogs.
I believe that greed and poor governance in the US and EU plays a huge and underexplored role in the sad state of global readiness for a flu pandemic.
I am sure that national security and public health ought not to be mixed up in the way they have become.
Immunocompetent is a place for enlightened talk about Bird Flu, and where xenophobia and fearmongering are banned.
Here you will find fresh perspective about the serious problem of potentially pandemic influenza. You'll get information and analysis that you won't find blogged elsewhere, because this site doesn't just comment on the news, it aims to make it.
From 1999 to 2008 your host, Edward Hammond, directed the Sunshine Project, a nongovernmental organization focusing on biological weapons and biosafety. He first stuck his toe into influenza issues in 2003, when the Sunshine Project issued one of the first public warnings that US scientists were intending to recreate 1918 influenza. Since 2006 he has focused on H5N1 issues, specifically, questions of access and benefit sharing related to influenza viruses.