Opening the floodgates for life-patenting, distinguished scientist Ananda MohanChakrabarty’s patent on the genetically engineered Pseudomonas, has inspired scientists worldwide to experiment with genes and nuclei to create newer species of life, more beneficial than the naturally existing ones.
IN 1971, General Electric and one of its employees, Ananda Mohan Chakrabarty applied for a US patent on a genetically engineered Pseudomonas bacteria – a bug that has a voracious appetite for oil. The patent office rejected the application on the basis that animate life forms were not patentable.
The case was appealed in the Court of Customs and Patents Appeals Office and then in the Supreme Court. Subsequently, followed a battle. Nine years of strenuous struggle of debates and deliberations to convince the world. While the patent office raised questions of violating moral ethics, Chakrabarty reiterated that all living organisms need not necessarily be naturally occurring, in which case Pseudomonas should be patented as it was an engineered `living’ organism.
In 1980, for the first time ever, the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) in the United States issued the patent for Ananda Chakrabarty on Pseudomonas. With that opened up the floodgates for life patenting. A historic beginning indeed, as this set a precedent for patenting of life and life-forms, including seeds, plants, mice, sheep, cows and even parts of human beings.
Chakrabarty became a much sought-after man. From being a bio-policy maker to providing legal advise to Supreme Court judges in different countries about research goals of scientists striving to create newer forms of life, to being an academician and a distinguished professor, he rose to become the advisor to the United Nation.
Presently working as a senior professor of microbiology and genetics at the University of Illinois.