A Hesitant Start
A Hesitant Start
Patents, Politics, and Process
This chapter discusses how the dissemination of monoclonal antibodies (Mabs) involved complex negotiations between actors in numerous scientific laboratories across the world, negotiations that also played out on the political stage. Central questions arose over who possessed rights to the technology, and whether those rights should be protected. Much of the debate about rights was shaped by whether scientists believed the technique was revolutionary or merely part of a long chain of scientific discoveries. In 1975, Mabs were not particularly new either theoretically or conceptually because similar antibodies had been produced before. The difference was essentially one of scale. While British immunologist César Milstein and other experts recognized the technology's potential early, the National Research and Development Corporation (NRDC) initially expressed doubts regarding the application of Mabs, and thus refused to patent the technique. The eventual collaboration between Sera-Lab and Milstein's laboratory provided the first commercial channel for the global dissemination of Mabs, and established an important foundation for future research in the field.
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