Senate committee rejects bill to outlaw gene patents

A PRIVATE senator's bill to outlaw the patenting of human genes has lost the support of a Senate committee, which argued the move might undermine future medical developments in Australia.

The Patent Amendment (Human Genes and Biological Materials) Bill 2010 was introduced by Liberal senator Bill Heffernan last year to stop biotechnology corporations from restricting genetic research by other companies, and even hospitals, because they "own" the research material.

But the Senate committee said this week that, while well-intentioned, Senator Heffernan's bill was an unlikely solution.

"The bill... could have a large number of unintended consequences across the entire patent system, with indeterminate impacts on a range of industries and sectors," the report said.

The committee believes the bill might lead to a reduction of clinical trials in Australia, long delays for new medicines and tests, and a fall in investment for medical