Thursday, January 24, 2013

'Messing' with biotech the right way

Earlier this week, Pr. Joachim Messing of Rutgers University, NJ, has been awarded the 2013 Wolf Prize in Agriculture for his contributions on genetic engineering and sharing his discoveries as open public domain technology, a far cry from the intellectual property copyright prevalent in all biotech companies.

He will collect his prize later in May from none other than President of Israel Shimon Peres at the Knesset, as the Wolf Foundation is based in Israel.

Jo has been working of late mostly on both the genome sequencing and generic engineering of corn and sorghum, trying to make the former into a complete feed by adding missing essential amino acids, and improving the yield of sugar, therefore ethanol, on the latter. His latest hobby is duckweed, which he deems would make a better source of biofuel thanks to its tremendous reproduction rate. The plant is also not competitive with other food crops, although tilapias vigorously deny this, but it requires a lot of water, so we're not there yet.

When I say Jo's work belongs to the public domain, this actually means that every gene is here for grabs by anybody, if they find and patent an application for it, for instance if a corn gene is found to deter the Colorado potato beetle, then nobody else can use that gene but the patent owner and their licensees.

So, at long last, Jo will not be remembered only for his colorful ties, but his contributions to humanity!  ;)  Who am I kidding, I don't even have my own wikipedia page. Does any reader have one?

Looks like I missed yesterday's blog, mistook that timezone shift the wrong way, I was so sure of myself I didn't even check the blog.

Bad Chimel.

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