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Genomics will have a big impact on diagnosis, prevention and treatment of disease in the new millennium. But the benefits of genomics advances are not being felt in developing countries, and patent rules are partly to blame.

In principle, genomics knowledge is a global public good, freely available for everyone's benefit. But in practice, its dissemination and use are constrained by national patent systems, according to Richard Smith and colleagues.

They call for a "recalibration" of the patent system that relaxes rules applying to patenting of genomics knowledge. This should be complimented by public-private partnerships for specific diseases, targeting of funds at "neglected" diseases, and revisions of legislation that enable purchase of more affordable drugs, they say.

Link to full paper in the Bulletin of the World Health Organisation 

Reference: Bulletin of the World Health Organisation 82, 385 (2004)

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