Innogen  ·  Publications  ·  Journal articles
How did the gene become a chemical compound? Shifting ontologies of the gene and the patenting of DNA

Calvert, J

Social Science Information   50 (2) 157-177

June 2011

http://ssi.sagepub.com/content/50/2/157.abstract

The ability to patent is bounded by a set of conditions that define what is patentable and what is not. In the 1980s, the problem of the patentability of genes was solved by the use of an analogy between genes and chemical compounds. In this article we analyze the process of the reduction of the gene to a chemical compound, and show how this analogy made the practice of gene patenting routine long before it came to public attention. When we did eventually see public controversies surrounding gene patenting in the 1990s, the chemical analogy allowed patent offices in the US and Europe to ‘close down’ these debates by presenting the issues as merely technical.