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Human genetic information must be kept in the public domain to allow researchers to analyse it and to give members of the public fair access to medical treatments, the Nobel prizewinning scientist who led the British contribution to the Human Genome Project said today.

Speaking at a briefing at the Science Museum in London to mark the 10th anniversary of the first draft of the human genome, biologist John Sulston said scientists and lawmakers must resist attempts by corporations and individuals to patent human genes.

In the US, for example, it costs a woman between $3,000 and $4,000 to be tested for familial breast cancer because a corporation owns the patent for the two genes involved. "The fact of the matter is that many human genes have patent rights on them and this is going to get in the way of treatment unless you have a lot of money," said Sulston. "And it's going to get in the way of research."

Sulston said he was particularly concerned about the intentions of scientists such as Craig Venter, who made headlines earlier...