Much At Stake In University Of Utah’s RNA Interference Lawsuit

Ann McClure's picture
Monday, August 6, 2012

More than a decade ago, University of Utah biochemist Brenda Bass made vital discoveries about manipulating RNA, the material that translates genetic code into proteins.

At conferences, during informal gatherings and in published papers, she talked about her insights with other leading RNA researchers, a type of sharing that can be crucial for scientific progress.

But in a landmark federal lawsuit, the U. is alleging scientists led by Thomas Tuschl at Germany’s Max Planck Society, a nonprofit for research, exploited Bass’ intellectual generosity.

Without crediting her, Planck and three other research institutions obtained a family of lucrative patents on a process for triggering RNA interference, or "silencing" genes in ways that could interrupt disease processes and inspire new medicines, according to court filings.

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