New patenting guidelines needed for biotechnology

Biotechnology scientists must be aware of the broad patent landscape and push for new patent and licensing guidelines, according to a new paper from Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.Published in the current issue of the journal Regenerative Medicine, the paper is based on the June 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the case Association for Molecular Pathology (AMP) v. Myriad Genetics that naturally occurring genes are unpatentable. The court case and rulings garnered discussion in the public about patenting biological materials.”The AMP v. Myriad Genetics case raises questions about the patent system,” said Kirstin Matthews, the Baker Institute fellow in science and technology policy and an expert on ethical and policy issues related to biomedical research and development. She co-authored the paper with Maude Rowland Cuchiara, the Baker Institute scholar for science and technology policy. The paper has timely significance in light of President Barack Obama’s recent announcements on reforming the nation’s patent process, including an initiative announced in February to “crowdsource” the review of patents.”There are not many opportunities to challenge patents once they have been granted, and the options that are available are costly and mostly limited to lawsuits,” Matthews said. Judges typically do not have the scientific knowledge to understand some of the technical arguments that are made in their courts, she said. “It may be better, as President Obama has proposed, to revise patenting guidelines at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office based on feedback from scientists, engineers, ethicists and policy scholars as opposed to leaving it up to the courts.”Until the Supreme Court’s decision, Myriad Genetics was the only company in the U.S. …

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Child Obesity: Using Attention modification program to decrease overeating in obese children

Among the multiple factors that can cause obesity is an abnormal neurocognitive or behavioral response to food cues. The brain becomes wired to seek — and expect — greater rewards from food, which leads to unhealthful overeating.Attention modification programs, which train a person to ignore or disregard specific, problematic cues or triggers, have been used effectively to treat cases of anxiety and substance abuse. In a novel study published this week in the journal Appetite, Kerri Boutelle, PhD, professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, and colleagues report using a single session of attention modification to decrease overeating in obese children.”Attentional bias is a long-studied psychological phenomenon,” said Boutelle. “Attentional bias to food means that food grabs a person’s attention. If two people were in a room with potato chips on the table, the person with attentional bias would be paying attention to, maybe looking at, the chips and the person without the bias would not really notice or pay attention to them.”We believe that there is a group of people who are inherently sensitive to food cues and, over time, eating in response to paying attention to food makes them pay even more attention. It’s based on Pavlovian conditioning.”Obesity in the United States is a well-documented problem, with more than a third of American adults considered to be obese. Child obesity is equally alarming, with an estimated one-third of American children (4 to 5 million individuals) overweight or obese. These children are at greater risk for cardiovascular disease, cancer, orthopedic and endocrine conditions and more likely to die earlier.Boutelle and colleagues investigated whether attention modification training might be another way to treat problematic eating and obesity in children. In a novel pilot study, they recruited 24 overweight and obese children between the ages of 8 and 12 and split them into two groups.One group underwent an attention modification program (AMP) in which they watched pairs of words quickly flash upon a computer screen. One was a food word, such as “cake;” the other was a non-food word, such as “desk.” After the words had flashed and disappeared, a letter appeared on-screen in the place of either the food word or the non-food word. …

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