Biology Reference
In-Depth Information
Thus we see that ABS has also been a major issue in WHA negotiations in
respect of human virus research, a fact that was reflected in the addition of the
text referring to human pathogens in the CBD ABS decision adopted at COP 10 in
Nagoya in October 2010.
7.3 New Technologies that Blur Traditional Boundaries
After this historical overview, this chapter now approaches its main argument for
expanding the scope of the CBD to include human genetic resources, namely the
practical impossibility of separating the origins of genetic resources in the innova-
tion process. The lines between human genetic resources and those covered by the
CBD are becoming increasingly blurred. Drug development is already inextricably
integrating the use of these resources into the same discovery programmes, and
even into the same molecules.
The publication of the human genome in 2000 led to a plethora of ideas as to
the use of the emerging information on genetics in diagnosis and treatment of
human diseases and the creation of new diagnostic and therapeutic tools. 4 The ear-
liest and most obvious applications of genome research are tests for genetic disor-
ders, but less obvious diagnostic uses may prove at least as important (e.g. in
forensics to establish identity). Genome research also holds the promise of identi-
fying genes expeditiously, making a genetic approach attractive as the first step in
the study not only of complex diseases, but also of normal biological functions
and of human diversity. Identifying relevant genes gives investigators a molecular
handle on problems that have previously proven intractable.
One distinctive aspect of the genome project was its explicit attention to tech-
nology development in addition to basic science. The development of new biologi-
cal methods, instruments, automata and robots, as well as other new technologies,
became an explicit objective. An unprecedented commitment to supporting research
on the ethical, legal and social implications of human genome research has been a
key feature of the project since its earliest phases. Existing genome research focuses
on ties to industry, with plans to locate genes through mapping techniques and an
eye to drug discovery through collaborative research. Identification of relevant
4 In the scientific community this initial optimism has waned, since it has proved more difficult
than first anticipated to connect one gene to one trait. There is an emerging view that the way
genes interact may be more important, and might even be essential in predicting the effect of a
certain allele (form of a gene). This means that the entire genetic background of a gene deter-
mines its effect and/or function. A gene found in a person from South Asia may very well not
have the same effect when introduced into a person from South America, or even someone from
another ethnic group in South Asia. This will affect the speed of discovery and perhaps the effec-
tiveness of therapeutic use. So, although it may take longer than first thought, the approach of
using genetic information to find novel therapies is still promising.
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