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The Opening of Biotech

Hemos posted more than 10 years ago | from the genes-just-wanna-be-free dept.

Biotech 200

RockinRobStar writes "ABC Science have posted an article about an Australian geneticist, Dr Richard Jefferson, pushing for "free access to the scientific tools of modern biology and genetics...just as computer programming tools were shared in the open source software movement." "The scientific tools...would be licensed under a similar agreement as the general public licence". Dr Jefferson plans to present his program to the World Economic Forum in January."

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ha... (1, Troll)

JohnnyBigodes (609498) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599209)

Dr Jefferson plans to present his program to the World Economic Forum in January.

... and maybe get laughed off the 'stage' by all the money-making politicians/whatever, most likely. They want ways to make money, bear no illusions.

Re:ha... (3, Informative)

Golias (176380) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599338)

Won't the current pantent laws, as they apply in most Western countries, take care of this?

Free Software needed the GPL (or the BSD License... Let's not start up that Holy War again) because software is usually locked up by copyright, and copyright lasts a long time.

Genetic research usually results in patents, though.

Patents give researchers a few years to make "ph4t l00t" as a return on their investment, and then lapse into the public domain. It's a pretty good balance between incentive for research and sharing of knowledge. What exactly is the problem here?

Re:ha... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599391)

Patents last 20 years. That's a near-eternity in today's world. Patents are anticapitalist monstrosities that just need to go.

patents are the backbone of capitalism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599426)

get rid of them? sure thing

Re:ha... (1)

prgrmr (568806) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599597)

Won't the current pantent laws, as they apply in most Western countries, take care of this?

No. In fact, patent law will support this. If you create something Biotech and patent that something and/or the method used to create it, you have effectively prohibited anyone else from patenting the same thing. If you chose to release the method as Open Source, you have guaranteed that it will be freely available, because no one else can charge a royalty for it, because you own the patent.

First post. MuhuhHAHhAHhAHhaH (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599211)

duh

Re:First post. MuhuhHAHhAHhAHhaH (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599236)

cat /dev/you > ~/fail.it

Why this is a bad idea. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599212)


Horrible idea.

If poor countries are allowed access to this information they'll come up with treatments for their local plagues. This will limit the effectiveness of US-led bioweapon attacks on these poverty-stricken nations. The cost of liberating the oil of these poor countries will cost the US much much more than the current oil war in Iraq.

What about cheap drugs? Currently cheap drugs from Canada flood the US. These drugs are exactly identical to more expensive US drugs but the cheap prices hurt the drug companies, which in turn hurts America. This cannot continue. US drug companies contribute millions of dollars to politicians every year, without these contributions people may hear ugly truths about them. This must stop. I'm all for freeing information but under the condition that it still leaves the US with an obvious upper hand in the matter. Only then will the world be a safe place to live.

Long Live King Dubya!

416d3971a5d6c300745425744c6906da

Re:Why this is a bad idea. (4, Funny)

mrtroy (640746) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599330)

Currently cheap drugs from Canada flood the US. These drugs are exactly identical to more expensive US drugs but the cheap prices hurt the drug companies, which in turn hurts America. This cannot continue. US drug companies contribute millions of dollars to politicians every year, without these contributions people may hear ugly truths about them. This must stop.

Apparently you havent been watching American news. THE DRUGS ARENT SAFE!
Americanos: "These drugs are under no restrictions and are not safe!"
Canadians: "Yes, they are safe, and we have pretty much the same restrictions as you do, and the drugs are identical to the ones you sell, they are just sold be different providers, and due to our market differences, ours are cheaper"
Americanos: "But they are cheaper! And our companies are losing business! This means they are bad."
Canadians: "Well, if you dont like them, stop them at the border" (I was happy when I heard that)
Americanos: "We cannot! We will put more news articles out there about how unsafe your drugs are!"

Obviously, these drugs are unsafe, and illegal.

Re:Why this is a bad idea. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599366)

please explain why it is obvious.

Re:Why this is a bad idea. (1)

mrtroy (640746) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599465)

From my previous post,
Americanos: "We cannot! We will put more news articles out there about how unsafe your drugs are!"

Hence, the drugs are OBVIOUSLY unsafe. Also see the post concerning American vs. Canadian genetic diffences, and consider religion. These drugs are obviously un-christian, they have not been blessed by a priest. Hence, obviously unsafe.

Re:Why this is a bad idea. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599412)

This is an unsafe situation you want.

US made drugs are made for Americans not Canadians. How do we know that the Canadian-made drugs won't have an adverse effect when ingested by an American? Have they done the research in the genetic differences between Americans and Canadians?

What you want is wholy un-American and un-Christian.

American drugs for American bodies!

358055ee6aa5e8d8516fdd43d2e41385

Re:Why this is a bad idea. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599525)

Good try, but again.... makes you wish for a little sterner moderation here on occasion.

Canadian drugs ARE NOT THE SAME. In some cases, yes. But how exactly do you think those drugs can be sold at a profit for so much less? In many cases, they are made out of country, at place with far fewer quality controls. In other cases, they are made out of country, where pollution and the discarding of some of the toxic by-products are not regulated.

In some cases, they are made, but with some different components. Different coloring agents. Different adhesion mediums. Things that haven't been fully approved in the US due to allergies and cross-product interactions, but have in Canada.

Sorry, there isn't a magic wand you can wave and say "look, the same drug for half the price!" The prices in Canada are lower because, frankly, the testing isn't as thorough, the administration isn't as monitored, the quality is not as controlled, and frankly, as the Head of Illinois Pharmaceuticals pointed out when the Illinois state government considered outsourcing drugs to Canada - their drugs really ARE second rate in many cases.

Take your life in your own hands thanks. The US has as near to a bulletproof drug approval system as you can get. Literally. Safest in the world. And now, because of the cost of the drugs, you want to go to a less-safe, less secure place to purchase them.

Then you'll cry when people start getting sick.

Re:Why this is a bad idea. (2, Informative)

mrtroy (640746) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599660)

Canadian drugs ARE NOT THE SAME. In some cases, yes. But how exactly do you think those drugs can be sold at a profit for so much less? In many cases, they are made out of country, at place with far fewer quality controls. In other cases, they are made out of country, where pollution and the discarding of some of the toxic by-products are not regulated.
It has nothing to do with pollution, or quality. First off, Canada actually follows the Kyoto Protocol and has stricter pollution controls than the US. Secondly, it has to do with competition, monopolies, and different marketplaces. They are identical drugs.

The prices in Canada are lower because, frankly, the testing isn't as thorough, the administration isn't as monitored, the quality is not as controlled, and frankly, as the Head of Illinois Pharmaceuticals pointed out when the Illinois state government considered outsourcing drugs to Canada - their drugs really ARE second rate in many cases.

I hate to break the news to you, but most of the prescription drugs in this world are produced, researched, and tested by a very few corporations. THEY ARE THE SAME DRUGS. I do not know how you think these drugs differ. Pfizer makes Viagra. Canadian Viagra is produced by Pfizer. American Viagra is produced by Pfizer. Canadian viagra is cheaper, due to marketplace, blah blah blah. So Americans choose to import a case of viagra.

If anything, Canada has a more strict system than the US. And you do not see Canadians getting sick from prescription drugs. So why is this importing of them going to magically make people sick? I dont see the link

Re:Why this is a bad idea. (1)

Hillman (137883) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599845)

Yep, it's the same drugs. It's just that our governement regulates the price. We're such a bunch of communists. Btw, we got viagra after you americans, Canada Health wanted to make more tests. I guess they wanted to be sure it worked with our massive organs.

a moderators take.... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599347)

If this post were only _slightly_ more thought out and not so reactionary id would probably mod up. I know they are trolling but some good points are made. The disease industry we have in America is not the right system for the rest of the world (just like sometimes democracy isnt). Eventually for humans to continue and survive over the next 100 years information will become free - the internet is certainly a catalyst and is enabling the sharing of informaton that could have meant death for treason a scant twenty years ago. I like to see a little hope in the news every now and again but it seems the above troll still sees the bottle as half empty....

fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599213)

fp
bb

Re:fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599240)

fourth post? I don't get it...

Oh Christ that's scary. (1)

limabone (174795) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599216)

Just because something can be done doesn't mean something should be done.

Re:Oh Christ that's scary. (1)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599502)

I'm sure this information will only be used to kill bad people.[*]

So, all the bad people get killed off, leaving only the good people to build a new society of Star Trek-like prosperity!

Re:Oh Christ that's scary. (4, Funny)

limabone (174795) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599784)

Well maybe I'm just the kind of guy who says 'The cup is half full of terrorists!'

It's amazing what we can do... (1)

Dracolytch (714699) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599219)

When we all work together. Like momma said, "Share your toys". Even when your toys are information and software. ~D

Uhoh (1)

Pingular (670773) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599220)

free access to the scientific tools of modern biology and genetics
I just had a debate about this a mere 30 minutes ago, what with all the cloning etc going at the moment, this isn't always a good thing. I think the information the public at large get should be carefully monitored. We wouldn't want people being able to clone themselves at home.

Re:Uhoh (5, Funny)

Angostura (703910) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599244)

What?! My licence specifically says that I am allowed to make one (1) copy of myself for off-site back-up.

Re:Uhoh (2, Funny)

Noren (605012) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599311)

... but you're not allowed to have two copies of yourself running at the same time.

Re:Uhoh (1)

Walterk (124748) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599417)

I prefer sitting anyway.

Re:Uhoh (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599804)

What about the $699 perself fee because Linux might have been used for the genome sequencing, which in return might contain 80 lines of code from Unixware.

Why not? (1)

Perianwyr Stormcrow (157913) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599260)

Think of the possibilities for low wage labor.

Re:Why not? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599378)

Right. Because we don't have enough people for that currently.

Why not? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599292)

You could send yourself out for pizza/beer/chips/smokes

Re:Uhoh (4, Insightful)

fenix down (206580) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599501)

We wouldn't want people being able to clone themselves at home.

Why not?

Maybe I'd think you had a point if you were talking about home genetic engineering, or if we had tubes where you could pump out backup copies of yourself like in a Governor Arnold movie, but cloning is just cloning. There's almost no issue there, besides whether cloning causes health problems in the clone. I can make my own Prozac with less expertise and cheaper equipment than I'd need to clone myself, and nobody's up in arms about that.

Everybody goes on about how cloning is a moral crisis, without ever pointing out exactly where the crisis is. Rich people cloning themselves? They do that now, they just use somebody else's DNA to help. Overpopulation? How is a screaming food-hole that's genetically identical to you any more appealing than a screaming food-hole that's only 40-60% genetically identical to you? Cloned soldiers? That's a movie, if you're going to form an army of brainwashed-from-birth psychos, cloning isn't going to help you very much. Other than the fact that we're playing God by shockingly inserting on our genetic material into an egg cell in order to reproduce manually rather than leaving it to a chemical reaction, I don't get the shock and horror.

I understand not wanting to clone people until we can figure out whether or not you end up with a genetically diseased baby, that's reasonable and absolutely necessary, but being appaled at the very idea of circumventing miosis is just weird to me. But perhaps I'm just odd.

Re:Uhoh (1)

lovebyte (81275) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599716)

Thank you. and no, you are alone in thinking that cloning is just another way to reproduce. I cannot understand the hysteria produced by the sole mention of cloning either. The French MPs even made cloning "a crime against the human race".

Re:Uhoh (1)

naasking (94116) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599823)

Other than the fact that we're playing God by shockingly inserting on our genetic material into an egg cell in order to reproduce manually rather than leaving it to a chemical reaction, I don't get the shock and horror.

Two sources of shock and horror:

1. Playing God
2. The development of this technology can lead to being cloned without your knowledge

Neither of those seem to justify the fear to me, but those are the sources I have run up against.

Re:Uhoh (1)

LoFreQ (658847) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599647)

When you limit the availability of knowledge it only stops the honest people from obtaining it- the people that will use the information in a negative manner are the ones that will circumvent those limits and will obtain it. So, by limiting access you are only giving the bad guys a headstart, because while they are hard at work brewing up killer viruses the scienitfic community as a whole is held back and unable to prepare for any possible threat. When you empower the scientific community and the public you take power away from the terrorists.

Re:Uhoh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599713)

Cloning is a debatable topic, but wether it's a bad or good thing, the access to knowledge should be the same for all.

Re:Uhoh: maybe? (1)

Cragen (697038) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599990)

My first thought was, well, given the "open" plans for, say, a car, it's not easy to make a completely new one from scratch. Then I thought, again. Low Riders! Hot Rods! Could be interesting times ahead. Serioulsy, I just wish they would get to the point where they actually understand things, like depression, mental illness, etc. That would be nice. *cragen.

Problems (4, Insightful)

Talrias (705583) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599229)

The problem with this is that scientists want to get credit for what they are doing. Both of my parents are scientists and even though they want to get more people interested in science they want to get the credit, not someone else who manages to see that two and two equals four where they didn't.

Re:Problems (1)

Aardpig (622459) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599285)

The problem with this is that scientists want to get credit for what they are doing.

And how, exactly, is this problematical?

Re:Problems (1)

escher (3402) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599634)

And how, exactly, is this problematical?

Egos can definitely get in the way of good science. Then you wind up with bad science. Bad science leads to angry robot minion armies. Angry robot minion armies will put a damper on anyone's day.

Re:Problems (2, Interesting)

krumms (613921) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599334)

The problem with this is that scientists want to get credit for what they are doing. Both of my parents are scientists and even though they want to get more people interested in science they want to get the credit, not someone else who manages to see that two and two equals four where they didn't.

How unproductive. No wonder cancer hasn't been cured yet, if this is the sort of "me, me, me" squabbling that goes on in science.

Understandable though, assuming that this credit leads to further funding for the said scientists.

Re:Problems (4, Insightful)

Apogee (134480) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599513)

How unproductive. No wonder cancer hasn't been cured yet, if this is the sort of "me, me, me" squabbling that goes on in science.

Understandable though, assuming that this credit leads to further funding for the said scientists.


Yes, you are right ... collaborating instead of competing for sure could lead to more interesting research, faster breakthroughs and a good community spirit among scientists. But in biology (that's the only discipline I can really talk about), this is pretty much a thing of the past, since grants, funding, positions in academia as well as in industry are to a large extent a direct function of how many papers you have published, and in what journals you published them. Only the best and brightest (something like 20-30 articles at age 35, and a handful of them in excellent journals) will get a shot at a group leader position.

This system has its merits, but one corollary is that you're not actually selecting the best and brightest, but perhaps the best-connected and those who can "sell" their work better than others. Another corollary, which is more damaging in the long run perhaps, is that nobody shares his data unless his authorship is acknowledged and under lock and seal. Conferences have become boring. I hear that 10-15 years ago, people would come to conferences and share the freshest, most exciting data from their lab. Nowadays, nobody gives a talk or shows a poster at a conference where the data isn't already published (i.e. you most likely read it already), or at least accepted for publication (i.e. you maybe read the e-pub ahead of print).

It's sad, and it's - exactly as you stipulate - due to all the rewards being tied to your publication record. Publish or perish, as they say.

I got news for you... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599423)

Your parents are shitheads.

Re:Problems (1)

frodo from middle ea (602941) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599461)

Good point.<P>I am not at all surprised to learn that scientist are some of the worst ego maniacs.<P>
A high profile scientist can only b eequated to a multi platinum selling rapper. The credit and acknowledgement they get in the scientific community is their "Bling-Bling". And the nobel prize being the cadillac escalade or the rolls royce.<P>
But this can be easily acchieved by the GPL like license. The terms of the license should be that if you use data that is licensed under that perticular license for your research then your research also has to be published under the same license and the Authors of the original data should also be credited in the new Data.<P>
This way the scientist will be credited for all the future work derived from his work.

Re:Problems (3, Insightful)

Llyr (561935) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599470)

As a scientist myself (albeit a computer scientist) I certainly do get credit for what I do, even what I do that I allow the world to use (by, for example, publishing an algorithm). Of course, publishing is part of my job and so I don't need to hoard my innovations in order to make money from them. It would be rather different if I worked for a company -- but even in the business world there are companies that see the value in publishing their techniques in order to advance science.

Hoarding key biotech techniques gives a few companies control over what's done with them, which is potentially extremely problematic. It also promotes keeping the basic techniques quiet until they've been able to exploit them for what they want to do, since the technique is not the end goal of their work.

If I have discovered how to fish, do I fish on my own in secret and sell fish, or allow others to observe (or teach them)? Someone could even improve on my methods.

Re:Problems (2, Interesting)

SemperUbi (673908) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599538)

It's totally reasonable for scientists to get credit for the work they do. One problem is the way that credit is scored, for purposes of advancement. Scientists get a disproportionate amount of credit for first-authoring primary research studies that get published in peer-reviewed print journals. Credit for being an author other than first (or last), or writing a review article, is much less, and credit for work that doesn't result in publication of one's name as author is almost negligable.

People generally want a strong CV and the chance to advance or secure their position. If the system rewarded people more for cooperating, for sharing good ideas and theories more openly and for participating in large collaborative projects, scientists would follow suit. The current system is pretty circular, since those who make promotion/advancement decisions are generally those who benefited from old system and want to perpetuate it.

Re:Problems (1)

quandrum (652868) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599598)

You know, funny thing. All GPL source code I've looked at has the authors names in the copyright statement.

This ignoring the fact that your parents are allowing their selfish desires to stop them from spreading knowledge and, you know, helping mankind.

I have no problem with acknowledgement. I have a huge problem with scientist who let there desire for it prevent them from sharing their insights and research. Maybe they don't go this far, maybe they just want to keep the funding going. But if more scientist just worried about science, then none of them would have to worry about the other political bullshit.

Re:Problems (1)

koekepeer (197127) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599657)

linus didn't write the linux kernel all by himself, but obviously he gets the credit (in media etc) for the hard work of others. they (other kernel programmers) didn't combine the idea of joining forces and keeping the source open. many people are credited in the source though.

as far as your idea goes: if someone else puts two and two together, you didn't think hard enough before you published.

*or*

it's an inherent property of closed review systems. many eyeballs make all bugs shallow right? thus a more open system would benefit your parents.

disclaimer : i am a scientist, so i know what i'm
talking about here.

Interesting circle (3, Interesting)

iamdrscience (541136) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599278)

All the time in articles, books, etc. relating to open source and free software people mention Newton's assertion that science is based on other people's work and that it stands "on the shoulders of giants". It's interesting now that [b]science[/b], in this article, is making an analogy to free/open source software for the same reasons. Kind of the completion of a circle, eh?

Also, although I know very very little about "biotech", I like it just because it's one letter away from "BIOTCH".

It's a neat idea. (0)

Luke727 (547923) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599279)

But we are not ready for this today. Third world countries are starving to death by the hundreds of thousands. How will gene therapy on plant/seed help when the farmers can't even get any regular plant/seed in the first place? You have to have bio-something before biotechnology becomes useful! Maybe once they get some farms up and running this could be useful. Until then, I think this is just a pipe dream. A step in the right direction, though.

Re:It's a neat idea. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599418)

In every nation in the world where there is still widespread hunger, the problem is not the lack of food, but the presense of tyranny.

Starvation is now almost exclusively a political problem.

Re:It's a neat idea. (1, Interesting)

Luke727 (547923) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599536)

The problem is the lack of food for regular people. The warlord (or whatever) steals all their livestock, seed, equipment, etc. and keeps it for himself and his thugs. This openness of technology will not help these people. They will continue to die in the streets. And we will let them. Because politics is more important than human life.

Great, now we're going to have 5C13nCe n00b5 (5, Funny)

3.5 stripes (578410) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599293)

The big question is who is going to write the manuals. It's not as if biotech isn't already difficult enough.

Re:Great, now we're going to have 5C13nCe n00b5 (1)

mrtroy (640746) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599702)

Ya, those damn prescript kiddies.

I hope they just dont packet me...er...pill me? err...

It just wont be a good scene.

I can see clearly now... (0, Troll)

DroopyStonx (683090) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599300)

Biotech is Godzilla.

Re:I can see clearly now... (1)

DroopyStonx (683090) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599834)

What's up with these goons improperly modding my posts lately?

This is in no way, shape, or form a troll. Not even a little bit.

why? (-1, Flamebait)

whysanity (231556) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599304)

Why is it that people always feel the need to apply a certain business model to other forms of business? Don't they relieze it doesn't work that way? Open scince is great, except it will be forgotten before the day is over - simply because it won't work.

Aren't we past this? (2, Funny)

teamhasnoi (554944) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599305)

Openness? I can't see how the biotech, medical, and defense companies could make a profit by giving the tools to research and create to just anyone.

Plus, wouldn't this put the tools of terrorism in the hands of those who would destroy us for the sake of tens of virgins in the afterlife?

The safe thing to do is to hide all knowledge of these technologies from everyone who isn't a corporation based in the U.S.. That way, these tools can only be used for the good of the human race.

Bleh.

Re:Aren't we past this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599419)

Is it because it is profitable that it must stay the way it is ? What about ethic ?
Or is it because someone might use it in a bad way that it must stay closed ? What about guns then ?

Re:Aren't we past this? (0)

Luke727 (547923) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599422)

I was watching some show recently (I forget which), and they were discussing how we Westerners (the media especially) get so caught up in that 72 virgins thing. This is not the sole "reward", nor is it the greatest. It is just a side dish. Suicide bombings would continue to happen even if no virgins were promised in the afterlife. The ONLY reason these people do what they do is because they have no army and they BELIEVE that Allah will love and cherish them in the afterlife. Allah's love is their reason, their purpose. That is MUCH more of an incentive than a bunch of virgins. They serve as the physical reward, a reward of the flesh. But to be loved by Allah is the greatest hope anyone could have. It is worth fighting for. It is worth dying for. Belief is a much stronger weapon than any machine.

Re:Aren't we past this? (1)

GoofyBoy (44399) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599664)

The fact that its a partial award gets to me.

Virgins are humans, where do they come from? Don't they have feelings? Is there some alternate world where virgins get a reward of being the property of a "suicide bomber" along with another X virgins?

Re:Aren't we past this? (1)

tamales4somalis (686225) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599739)

If the afterlife is forever, I don't see how 72 virgins would be enough. I mean, it would only be a matter of a few weeks before I was down to 1 or 2 "virgins" left, and then what?

Re:Aren't we past this? (1)

IWorkForMorons (679120) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599467)

The safe thing to do is to hide all knowledge of these technologies from everyone who isn't a corporation based in the U.S.. That way, these tools can only be used for the good of the human race.

You know...you had a half decent argument going, right up until this line. Exactly where does it say U.S. corporations will do what is good for the human race? As far as I know, corporations do what's good for their bottom line, not for the human race. Especially U.S. based companies. If they only did what was good for the human race, Nike wouldn't give contracts to sweatshops in Asia, Haliburton Oil would have stayed out of Iraq due to conflicts of interest, and Shell would leave Nigeria's Niger Delta...

Re:Aren't we past this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599485)

Let see, you speak about profitability of US corporations, and then about theses doing good for the human race ?

Re:Aren't we past this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599523)

Open Source Biotech: giving the terrorists the tools to create their own *personal* virgins!

Re:Aren't we past this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599625)

Didnt your anthrax mailer get his weaponised anthrax from a US biological warfare corporation? Come to think of arent biological weapons illegal?

Unintended Consequences: Less New Medicine (4, Interesting)

G4from128k (686170) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599389)

Open access to biotechnology may have unintended consequences that reduce the utility of the biotech knowledge. As much as people hate patents, they do serve a purpose. Giving someone a monopoly right to sell something gives them the incentive to spend money on development. Drug development is hideously expensive -- without some hope of a billion dollar blockbuster payoff, companies aren't going to invest anything in open-access pharmaceuticals.

Now if we could convince goverments to spend money on all aspects of pharma development, we might be OK. Unfortunately, I'd bet that the funding government would get cranky when other countries freely exploit the medicines that the one government paid for. Citizens of countries that fund pharma R&D might reasonably object to shouldering all the burden of developing new medicines for the whole world. Does anyone think the UN would be an effective body for funding the rapid development of new drugs?

Finally, patents are a form of open access (at least in the U.S.). Patents force companies to publish their inventions. This gives competitors a leg up in innovating around any new patented process. Its not as open as the proposed Biological Innovation for Open Society (BIOS) program, but the current system is not as closed as detractors would have you believe.

Re:Unintended Consequences: Less New Medicine (0)

caston (711568) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599567)

There is nothing to stop other instituionts like universities or purpose build foundations (perhaps sponsored by people suffering from diseases in question) from doing the research.

Afterall, check out thinkcycle.org for an example of an MIT birthed initiative.

There are also distributed projects to find cures for cancer and AIDS. I'd prefer contributing my spare clock cycles to a project where I know the end product isn't going to be controlled by one company. regards, Chris Caston

Re:Unintended Consequences: Less New Medicine (3, Insightful)

Apogee (134480) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599599)

I think I do see your point, but I guess a distinction can be made between tools, i.e. methods, reagents, protocols (and to some extent labware) that are necessary for basic science and the drug development process. In the end, cheap access to basic biotech techniques may be beneficial for big pharma, as well, cutting down research costs.

There are some things on the market in biotech where the distributor (typically the company didn't invent it, they bought the rights from a university) are more or less monopolizing a technique, with the help of patents and license agreements. And the price that you pay at university for this stuff is - while it's expensive - nothing to the price big pharma has to spend for the same thing. I am not talking about hi-tech equipment, but for instance a method + all the reagents to create stably transfected cell lines (that is, a cell that expresses a newly inserted gene). Sure, the work of the person who built up the system needs to be acknowledged, but the price for this kit is just a phantasy price.

In the end, I think, big pharma wouldn't suffer all that much, and neither would drug development

Re:Unintended Consequences: Less New Medicine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599738)

If you make some stuff free, after the initial shock(if any), people build upon this free resource to create new things faster and make them better. It is not about getting rid of the patent system, it is about releasing free information to accelerate progress.

Re:Unintended Consequences: Less New Medicine (1)

maomoondog (198438) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599947)

I agree that patents can help the process -- they attract capital to research by making it a worthwhile investment. But some parts of this process need more capital than others.

A lot of the sequence analysis we need to do right now can be studied on inexpensive equipment. You need bright, tech-savvy people working on it, but there are a lot of these people at universities, research institutions, and open-source groups. Governments do fund these groups (um, NCBI [nih.gov] ?). They get a lot of bang for their buck, motivating and releasing research without giving away restrictive patents. Corporations doing research often benefit from the open standards and published methods they create.

Writing sequence analysis algorithms is one thing, but verifying your work experimentally is another. You need thousands or millions of dollars of specialized equipment and lab labor to do wet work. For that, we need pharmas, and the pharmas need patents.

But maybe we can make intellectual property laws that protect their contribution to the process, while encouraging different incentive schemes for work that can be developed more efficiently by a more open community?

Done Deal (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599393)

pubmed [nih.gov]

golden path [ucsc.edu]

bioconducter [bioconductor.org]

public library of science [plos.org]

gnumeric [gnome.org]

cluster analysis [lbl.gov]

etc. etc. etc.

What's the BFD ??? A lot of scientists are on the open source bandwagon and have been for years. Walmart's coming to town and the Ivory Towers are falling.

Common Sense (5, Insightful)

spoonboy42 (146048) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599394)

Well, the impact of this all depends on what is meant by "tools". A lot of the tools of the trade for genetic research (lysing and ligand enzymes, PCR machines, etc.) can easily be purchased from many scientific suppliers, and the methods for creating such tools are well enough known that they can easily be replicated (at my old high school, I kid you not, the Biology teacher and some students constructed a fully functional home-made PCR setup using off-the-shelf hobbyist robotics compnents).

Now, what I'm thinking is that this fellow is proposing "open research". This is a direct reaction to the flurry of biotech patents we've seen over the last few years. Instead of jeleaously gaurding any new biotechnological inventions or discoveries, they would be shared with the community and opened up for peer review. My, that sounds familiar... maybe because it's what the process of scientific inquiry has depended on for centuries. In fact, you might recall that when RMS founded the FSF, his goal was to rekindle the spirit of "software as science" that had existed in the early days of computing. In the days of "biotech as business", scientific openness is an old idea whose time has once again come.

Re:Common Sense (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599568)

Never mind the tools..what I want is a Pizza Plant! [gmbiotech.com]

Re:Common Sense (1)

JDevers (83155) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599950)

A PCR machine is really nothing more than a heating device with a fairly accurate controller. Not sure what robotics components they needed, unless they did the old multiblock thing (keep four blocks are the cyclical temps, moving the plate instead of changing the temp of just one block)...

The patent on PCR machines isn't too far from running out (I think...), the expense is really in the polymerase enzymes needed.

Be careful (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599433)

Under such a scheme, you would have to provide the complete sequence of your genome whenever you sneezed on somebody.

Much is already freely available (4, Informative)

John Hawks (624818) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599455)

I don't know what this guy is talking about. You can already do substantial genetic research with freely available tools and data from the National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health. A major area of granting by both NIH and NSF is the creation of open source or freely available software for genetic research. I would say that bioinformatics is one of the most active areas for free software development today. I would say that the largest problem in biotech is not that tools are closed access, but that companies can patent biological and genetic information that they discover with their open access, publically developed tools.

Re:Much is already freely available (2, Informative)

Apogee (134480) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599661)

True, bioinformatics is indeed a fantastic open-source playground, due to NIH and other agencies generous granting, as well as the fact that most bix'ers I know are avid open source supporters.

In the wet lab, the situation is different, though, and I believe that's what Dr. Jefferson has set his sights on, correct me if I am wrong, though.

Re:Much is already freely available (2, Informative)

John Hawks (624818) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599859)

Agreed, he does refer mainly to chemical and laboratory techniques. But in these areas, universities are major instruments of closing access also. The largest sources of revenue for many universities are the patent portfolios developed for biomedical applications in university laboratories. These patents keep corporations from running away with the game, and keep corporate money flowing into university research. But universities typically allow licensees to develop subsidiary work quite freely--after all, new applications only increase the licensing fees on their old patents.

I think what is going on here is that some researchers get blocked out of research in their preferred areas because of a history of scientific conflicts with others. Science is "share and share alike" until someone is either perceived as a freeloader or publishes critically against powerful interests. The power to limit resource access becomes an informal adjunct to peer review. I think this system is deplorable in many ways, and opening access to all such resources might be preferable.

prophetic reporting from Wired? (2, Interesting)

smd4985 (203677) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599471)

Wired [wired.com] has an interesting article related to this story. Summary: Open-Source as a design philosophy will be applied to an increasingly diverse set of disciplines.

Not a very good idea, (3, Insightful)

SexyKellyOsbourne (606860) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599484)

Considering that the world is currently in a stage where third-world rogue nations, and not a duality of superpowers keeping each other in check, are developing high technology, especially weapons of mass destruction.

While the implementation of open source programs and operating systems are great, genetic science is playing God by modifying organisms in irreperable ways, whether they're perceived to be good, bad, or sort of silly like those glowing fish. Even worse, such tools under skilled hands -- usually free university education in the west -- could be used to make gene-specific bioweapons or unstoppable virii like our army just did.

Imagine their scientists getting a huge head start with "accessible" genetics tools under the iron fist of a dictator who would want to use them for blackmail, and then goes insane for one reason or another and acutally uses them. Even if they reached the level the US and the USSR were at in the 1970s or more realistically, the 1980s, with their research, it could still spell disaster.

Most of this playing-God genetic stuff shouldn't even be developed in the first place, much less be made more accessible to the despots of the third world like an open source program.

amazing (1)

scorilo (654174) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599488)

This development was long overdue. Still, it seems to have a destiny as impotent and sterile as the talk about a "new world economic order" that seems to dominate the agenda at the UN. What surprised me is that it comes from Rockefeller Foundation sponsorship. How times have changed!

New Industries-New Rules (3, Interesting)

randall_burns (108052) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599489)

Historically, major new industries have put new practices in place. Industrialization for example was a major part of the impulse behind universal, cumpulsory education in Germany.


What I read here:

Major portions of the biotech community feel their field would be enhanced by moving towards something more like the Open Source community. The implication of this is that the intellectual property rules may need to change a bit for this to really happen. What might motivate the powers that be to want to make this happen: most wealth/political power in the world is controlled by older folks. Biotech is especially important to the old because biotech has the serious possibility of extending human life spans-and more importantly extending the quality of human life. Basically the political elites have a choice:

Continue playing their games-and die at age 70-85.

Listen to the biotech folks and live comfortably an extra 15-30 years.


I think that the powers-that-be will choose the second choice. We'll see a greater mix in means of rewarding inventors as the biotech revolution develops.

Past tense (2, Informative)

lukewarmfusion (726141) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599503)

"...just as computer programming tools were shared in the open source software movement."

Were? As in... the OSS movement that is complete?

Not sure how I feel about this idea - to speed up progress research should be shared, but individual benefits should also drive that research. Why would you go into biophysics if your work wasn't going to pay off? (I know there are other reasons, but money's still at the top of most people's list).

I can see it now, Laden clones and super germs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599522)

Doing this will make it easier to clone people and create WoMD. Not the best idea.

Re:I can see it now, Laden clones and super germs (1)

Patrik_AKA_RedX (624423) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599787)

Doing this will make it easier to clone people and create WoMD. Not the best idea
I don't think there would be a problem. The cloning and the WMD might level out.

someone stop this idiot (3, Interesting)

sbma44 (694130) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599529)

I don't know how we're going to restrict the spread of advanced biotech knowledge, but I wish I did. Yeah, information wants to be free -- I agree, until that information can kill people. In fifteen years an undergrab microbio degree will be enough to create a plague. The methods won't require particularly exotic reagents and the equipment won't be hard to get.

This is not equivalent to the debate over publishing exploit source. There is no guarantee that biological countermeasures can be created to counteract bio-malware, so increasing the pool of exploit-related knowledge is not to our benefit. Besides which, people will die while we wait for the equivalent of patches to be submitted.

Is it possible to amend the GPL to prohibit its use for distributing potentially dangerous biological information -- something like the ebola genome? Perhaps a review board could be established for biological information that is to be distributed under the GPL. I realize this does nothing to stop the information's spread under a different scheme, but at least it might discourage the foolish from cross-applying OSS principles to arenas where they most decidedly do NOT belong.

I really don't agree with you (3, Insightful)

Apogee (134480) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599918)

Since when has 'restricting the spread of advanced XYZ knowledge' ever worked? Sure, the RIAA/MPAA would love to contain the spreading of the dangerous knowledge that you can use file sharing programs, and microsoft would love to keep all the advances knowledge about how to build an OS secret. After all, knowing how an OS works could arguably lead to damages and lives lost, like hacking into a power grid (yes, I am becoming a bit melodramatic, I'll stop now, I promise).

My point is: It's a bad idea to restrict the spread of knowledge, since we simply can't. Good textbooks about biology will teach you a fair bit about molecular biology, and lab techniques. All this can be used for good or for bad purposes, as with (almost) all technology. So how do you wish to contain this knowledge? Prohibit anyone from teaching biology? Or perhaps teach biology only in the US, thus protecting the homeland? (oops I am bitter again...)

In that vein, do you think that amending the GPL would help in containing information? Bad people who are planning to kill usually don't worry too much about breaking the terms of a license. And as for the Ebola genome, it's here [nih.gov] , courtesy of the NIH. And it is there, publicly available, since some people are actually wanting to study it to find a remedy, and fortunately, they are not all employed by the USAMRIID or DoD but are all over the world.

Re:someone stop this idiot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599960)

What is foolish is the fact that governments around the world pull a BASF and invest billions to make the ebola that kills you, kill you better without investing anything in prevention or a cure.

The spread of the free software mode of production (1)

Chris Croome (24340) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599535)

Good stuff, the more areas of human activity that the free software way of producing things spreads to the better, another science thing is featured on the front page of Creative Commons [creativecommons.org] at the moment, PLoS:

The Public Library of Science [publiclibr...cience.com] is a nonprofit organization dedicated to making the world's scientific and medical literature a freely available public resource. PLoS emerged in October 2000 through the effort of three dynamic and highly respected scientists: Nobel Laureate [nobel.se] and former head of the National Institutes of Health [nih.gov] Harold Varmus [plos.org] , molecular biologist Pat Brown [plos.org] of Stanford University [stanford.edu] , and biologist Michael Eisen [plos.org] of Lawrence Berkeley National Lab [lbl.gov] and UC Berkeley [berkeley.edu] . This trio's dream, as the L.A. Times [latimes.com] put it, is to build "a world in which the many thousands of scientific journals . . . are placed in an electronic library open to the public."

Science and education seem to be areas where this is taking off at the moment, the design of things seems to be happening at a lot slower rate. Perhaps the lack of free CAD software to compete with AutoCAD is one of the main things holding this back?

I'm looking forward to the day when I can buy a washing machine and vacuum cleaner that are build from designs under GPL style licences...

As a Maths Geek I find this funny .... (0)

Grizzlysmit (580824) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599537)

The new program is called Biological Innovation for Open Society (BIOS) and Jefferson will announce it at the World Economic Forum to be held in Davos, Switzerland next January.

.......

"The open source revolution in information technology has proven itself rock solid as one of the greatest innovations in the history of creativity. If you decentralise the group of tool creators and make sure people are bound to a public good ethos, it works and makes money for people," he said.

This is just what Mathematics has been doing for centuries, and it works the too. :-D

Kid to teacher: (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599560)

"My homework ate my dog..." bwahaha

Genetically Engineered mice for all! (1)

Oriumpor (446718) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599562)

So, when can I pick up my own personal mouse with a functioning hand growing off it's back?

We can still hope :-D .... (1)

Grizzlysmit (580824) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599569)

"With Linux and all the open source innovations, you're not seeing the death of Microsoft, you're seeing Microsoft work harder to be a better company so that it can stay afloat."

agreed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#7599590)

One of my biology professors (who is well respected in his field) has commented on this idea a few times. The scientific community used to be able to regulate itself by keeping all research open and available. Corporations have changed science by taking it behind closed doors for their own greedy purposes. Consequently, this leads to bad scientific practices that are potentially unsafe. It sounds like this is what this guy is talking about.

Perhaps the birth of a new paradigm (3, Interesting)

Space cowboy (13680) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599591)

For the last few hundred years, commerce has been the driving goal behind human development, barring the occasional major war... The reasons are based in the costs of production, dissemination, and utilisation of knowledge and materials, versus the potential profit of using that information.

One new factor is communication, which has advanced to the level where no great expense is required for long-distance communications. Merchant princes rose and fell by their application of knowledge that others didn't have, today we have near-as-dammit instant communication with negligible costs. We pay people in other countries, and have a truly global market.

There is another new factor coming into play: zero- (or at least, minimal) cost goods.Until recently, manufacturing costs were per-copy of an object, now we deal in abstract knowledge more often, recreating the object we desire locally. This obviously doesn't apply to real physical objects, but how often do we download models, music, video, programs, and data. There is negligible duplication costs involved here, so costs can be amortised over the whole collection, and are far less per item.

Perhaps we can see forward to a future where digital assets have limited protection; the competitive advantage of being first compensating for the lower barrier-to-entry for companies. The first steps towards a truly creative commons, open to all without restriction. If such a thing were ever to become reality, the GPL or a similar (not-for-profit-without-forking-out-dosh) licence would be ideal. In that case, I think we'd all be significantly more grateful to RMS than we are today...

Or perhaps not. (And I leave the reader to decide which point I refer to with 'not' :-)

Simon

Re: Perhaps the birth of a new paradigm (1)

Chris Croome (24340) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599936)

Yup.

I think that the manner in which free software is produced does represent a new mode of production, one that has the potential to become the dominent mode of production.

One of the best things I have read about this idea is this interview:

FREE SOFTWARE & GPL SOCIETY [c3.hu] .

Security and Updates (0)

Valdrax (32670) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599631)

This... bothers me. I'm not sure that I like taking a stance against openness in science, but the comparison to the open source movement made me realize something about why this isn't a good idea. The open source movement is founded on the idea that thousands of eyes on source code allow it to be improved and constantly updated. Bugs are fixed, servers are patched, and viruses are defeated.

This doesn't work for biology.

When a malicious researcher discovers (for lack of a better word) an exploit [slashdot.org] for the human body, we can't just patch and reboot our systems to compensate. I think that until we can better develop rapid-response countermeasures to new engineered diseases, we might want to hold off on such a proposition. There are too many dangerous things that we can do with today's knowledge that we can't counter to be widely opening it all up.

Ech. Never mind. (1)

Valdrax (32670) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599705)

I reread the article. It's more about breaking monopoly strangeholds on research than on widely opening up all databases and research libraries. It'll have a trickle-down effect that makes it easier for poorer researchers (including terrorists) to do their work, but I can't really oppose that.

Anyone else... (1)

blixel (158224) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599821)

Anyone else read that as "The opening of Bieotch?"

According to this article [slashdot.org] , I'm probably not alone.

RPL not GPL (1)

Baldrson (78598) | more than 10 years ago | (#7599916)

The idea of bureaucratic clones in a corporate hive benefiting, without reciprocation, from the biotech innovations of grassroots technologists is even more repugnant than such parasitic phenomena in traditional information technology.

Clause 2.b of the GPL [gnu.org] has been interpreted by everyone from Richard Stallman to Bruce Perens to mean that the larger the organization the less likely they are to publish derivative works because internal distribution is not covered under the GPL. Like many tax policies that penalize small businesses and favor conglomerates, the GPL is designed to encourage bureaucratic growth.

The RPL [opensource.org] is more viral. The RPL requires that those who want to keep their derivative works private, find some other licensing arrangement with the authors. If some bureacrat wants to make viruses from free public technology, then he at least gets a viral public license.

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