NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Disagreement Over Rights Scuttles Cooperative Genome Effort

March 8, 2000

A private company, Celera Genomics of Rockville, Md., quietly opened discussions with the federally-funded Human Genome Project in December to discuss a cooperative information-sharing arrangement. But those talks have reportedly degenerated into confusion over terms of ownership of the information, how it would be used commercially, how it would be disseminated and who would get the scientific credit.

Craig Venter, the president of Celera, says he will try to continue negotiations for a compromise today. But Francis Collins, director of the government-supported effort, says such an agreement "appears to be unworkable."

  • The $3 billion government project was launched in 1990, with the final mapping and decoding of human genes expected to be completed in 2003.
  • But the private Celera effort was launched only two years ago with promises the project could be completed cheaper and faster than the government could do the research.
  • Both groups are expected to independently finish sequencing all human genes this year, but the data are expected to have many gaps which a collaborative effort could have closed this year.

Venter claims that the government scientists "had no intention of seeing this through," adding: "They were anxious to declare any collaboration dead." Collins objects that any collaboration with Celera would benefit it commercially and draw fire from other companies and scientists.

Source: Tim Friend, "Genome Projects Won't Be Pooled," USA Today, March 7, 2000.


Browse more articles on Tax and Spending Issues