By Stephen Leahy
Jun 11 (IPS) – Patent applications for the world’s first-ever human-made species have been made to patent offices around the world.
The Venter Institute, named for its founder and CEO, J. Craig Venter, has applied for a patent on a novel bacterium made entirely from synthetic DNA in the laboratory, according to a civil society organisation concerned that this new technology is outpacing ethics and safety protocols. Applications have reportedly been made to more than 100 patent offices over the past few months for the synthetic bacterium called “Mycoplasma laboratorium”. “In the tradition of ‘Dolly,’ (the first cloned animal) we have nicknamed this synthetic organism ‘Synthia'”, said Jim Thomas of ETC Group, a Canada-based organisation that recently won a 13-year legal battle against Monsanto’s species-wide soybean patent.
“These monopoly claims signal the start of a high-stakes commercial race to synthesise and privatise synthetic life forms,” Thomas told IPS. “Will Venter’s company become the ‘Microbesoft’ of synthetic biology?”