The Genealogy of a Gene
In The Genealogy of a Gene, Myles Jackson uses the story of the CCR5 gene to investigate the interrelationships among science, technology, and society. Mapping the varied “genealogy” of CCR5—intellectual property, natural selection, Big and Small Pharma, human diversity studies, personalized medicine, ancestry studies, and race and genomics—Jackson links a myriad of diverse topics. The history of CCR5 from the 1990s to the present offers a vivid illustration of how intellectual property law has changed the conduct and content of scientific knowledge, and the social, political, and ethical implications of such a transformation.
The CCR5 gene began as a small sequence of DNA, became a patented product of a corporation, and then, when it was found to be an AIDS virus co-receptor with a key role in the immune system, it became part of the biomedical research world—and a potential moneymaker for the pharmaceutical industry. When it was further discovered that a mutation of the gene found in certain populations conferred near-immunity to the AIDS virus, questions about race and genetics arose. Jackson describes these developments in the context of larger issues, including the rise of “biocapitalism,” the patentability of products of nature, the difference between U.S. and European patenting approaches, and the relevance of race and ethnicity to medical research.
About the Author
Myles W. Jackson is Albert Gallatin Research Excellence Professor of the History of Science, NYU-Gallatin; Professor of History, Department of History, NYU-FAS; Director of Science and Society, NYU-CAS; Professor of the Division of Medical Ethics, NYU-Langone School of Medicine; and Faculty Affiliate of the Engelberg Center on Innovation Law and Policy at the New York University School of Law. He is the author of Spectrum of Belief: Joseph von Fraunhofer and the Craft of Precision Optics and Harmonious Triads: Physicists, Musicians, and Instrument Makers in Nineteenth-Century Germany, both published by the MIT Press.
—David Baltimore, Robert Andrews Millikan Professor of Biology, Caltech; Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine, 1975
—Michael E. Lynch, Professor of Science and Technology Studies, Cornell University
—Daniel J. Kevles, Stanley Woodward Professor of History, Yale University; author of In the Name of Eugenics; coeditor of The Code of Codes: Scientific and Social Issues in the Human Genome Project