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Biologists have launched an 'open-source' movement, which they hope will increase the availability of information and patented technologies to researchers in developing countries. Biological Innovation for Open Society (BIOS) has been set up with a US$1 million grant from the Rockefeller Foundation.

The initiative will promote sharing of genetic resources, medical treatments, and tools for use in animal and plant breeding. Included among the technologies to be shared would be a new method for transferring genes into plants using bacteria. The multinational biotechnology company Monsanto holds the patent to the technique currently in use.

License fees for patented technologies are often prohibitively expensive for researchers in poor countries. The BIOS initiative aims to make licenses available for a "non compulsory" fee, meaning that those who cannot afford to pay would not have to. In return, researchers would be required to freely release any innovations derived from the use of such techniques.

Link to full Nature news story

Reference: Nature 431, 494 (2004)