One cor­por­ta­tion owns half of all patents for genes of ma­rine species, new study finds

Com­pa­nies lo­cated in 10 coun­tries ac­counted for 98 per cent of all patents

StarMetro Vancouver - - VANCOUVER - ME­LANIE GREEN Dirk Meiss­ner

sin­gle cor­po­ra­tion owns nearly half of the ex­ist­ing patents as­so­ci­ated with the genes of ma­rine or­gan­isms, ac­cord­ing to a new study.

BASF, the world’s largest chem­i­cal man­u­fac­turer, based in Ger­many, has reg­is­tered 47 per cent of the 12,998 ge­netic se­quences from 862 ma­rine species. This ge­netic in­for­ma­tion has been her­alded for its po­ten­tial value be­yond food — from medicine such as anti-can­cer ther­a­pies to cos­met­ics, crop in­no­va­tions and syn­the­siz­ing bio­fu­els.

And hold­ers of gene patents have the sole right to de­cide how to re­search and cre­ate prod­ucts. Those lo­cated in just 10 coun­tries ac­counted for 98 per cent of all patents, the study found.

The two other ma­jor na­tions ac­cu­mu­lat­ing ma­rine patents were the United States and Ja­pan.

“By 2025, the global mar­ket for ma­rine biotech­nol­ogy is ex­pected to reach $6.4 bil­lion and span a broad range of com­mer­cial pur­poses for phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal, bio­fuel and chem­i­cal in­dus­tries,” said Co­lette Wab­nitz, coau­thor and re­searcher with the Univer­sity of Bri­tish Columbia’s In­sti­tute for the Oceans and Fish­eries.

By cre­at­ing a data­base of 38 mil­lion se­quences based on pub­licly avail­able records from Gen­bank at the Na­tional Cen­ter for Biotech­nol­ogy In­for­ma­tion, re­searchers clas­si­fied the in­for­ma­tion into three broad cat­e­gories: com­pa­nies, uni­ver­si­ties and oth­ers, such as gov­ern­ment bod­ies, in­di­vid­u­als or hos­pi­tals. al­gae, which is be­com­ing more com­monly used in cos­met­ics, at Tech­na­ture com­pany in Le Relecq-ker­huon, France.

Wab­nitz pointed to one of BASF’S patent ap­pli­ca­tions on al­gae se­quences con­tribut­ing to re­search on cul­ti­vat­ing canola plants for­ti­fied with Omega-3 fatty acids. Af­ter years of de­vel­op­ment, the com­pany is plan­ning to “splice” the healthy acid

into the canola genome.that means canola would grow on land with Omega-3s and there’s a push to have it on the mar­ket by 2020, Wab­nitz said.

Read more about es­tab­lish­ing le­gal frame­work for ma­rine ge­net­ics at thes­tar.com

Out of the burial site came in­di­vid­ual ver­te­brae the size of small air­craft pro­pel­lers and ribs longer than yard sticks. A land­fill on the west coast of Van­cou­ver Is­land was the site of a unique event where sci­en­tists and about a dozen vol­un­teers re­cently ex­humed the 10-me­tre long whale.

When the body of the young fe­male washed up on Wick­anin­nish Beach at Pa­cific Rim Na­tional Park Re­serve in April 2015, of­fi­cials had to act quickly: haul the ma­rine mam­mal out to sea or save the skele­ton by bury­ing it at the lo­cal dump.

The de­ci­sion was made to pre­serve the bones for science, and that’s how a fil­ter­feed­ing cetacean, which can reach lengths of al­most 15 me­tres and weigh up to 36 tonnes, ended up cov­ered in dirt at the Al­berni-clay­oquot Re­gional District land­fill in Ucluelet.

“It could have been towed off­shore and just sunk and na­ture would have re­cy­cled it, and that’s fine,” said Gavin Hanke, cu­ra­tor of ver­te­brate zo­ol­ogy at the Royal Bri­tish Columbia Mu­seum. “But this spec­i­men now is avail­able for any­one to look at.”

Read more about the whales’ new home at thes­tar.com

FRED TANNEAU/AFP/GETTY IM­AGES

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