Tuesday, Jan 1, 1980

Supreme Court Decision Will Spur Genetics Industry

South San Francisco, Calif. -- January 1, 1980 --

Genentech, Inc. of South San Francisco, California, expressed satisfaction with the landmark decision of the United States Supreme Court that confirmed the patentability of new forms of bacterial life. The case involved General Electric's patent application for an oil slick-eating bacterium. The Patent and Trademark Office had refused to grant the requested patent, arguing that the patent statute did not include inventions that were alive.

Genentech was a participant in the case as amicus curiae, or "friend of the court," and had urged in its brief that patents be made available for new life forms developed in recombinant DNA research.

Robert Swanson, president of Genentech, said the Supreme Court decision will be of benefit to high technology ventures for a number of reasons. "First, and impediment to the grant of patents on new bacteria made via recombinant DNA techniques has been removed," Swanson said. "Genentech has been filing patent applications in the field since 1977, but the grant process has been held up at the Patent Office pending resolution of the Supreme Court controversy. Now, the process can go forward.

"Patents are especially useful to new companies like Genentech because with them we can more easily compete in pharmaceutical and other industries that have traditionally been dominated by larger concerns.

"Finally,"Swanson added, "the Court's decision should accelerate the flow of investment capital into new, high technology ventures. The Supreme Court has reaffirmed the forward-looking role of the patent system, which supplies necessary incentives for the creation of tomorrow's technology today. By extending the reach of patents to encompass more than merely 'traditional' fields of research, the Court has assured this country's technology future."

Recombinant DNA technology involves science's new-found ability to probe the cells of living matter and to alter and recombine the DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) which is the essence of the genes that determine heredity and physical characteristics.

Genentech was founded in 1976 to develop commercial applications for the new technology. Since 1977, at the rate of better than one a year, it has produced somatostatin (a brain hormone), human insulin, human growth hormone, thymosin alpha-1, proinsulin and both leukocyte and fibroblast interferon.

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