Patent applied for protein gene

Published: Monday 15 August 1994

In the patent rush:P Ashish Du The department of biotechnology (DBT) and a team of researchers at Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) have filed India's first international patent on the amaranthus gene that could help create new breeds of crops endowed with the best protein blend for human nutrition. This would be one of India's first international patents in this particular area of genetic engineering.

The amaranthus gene, also called the "seed storage protein gene", helps produce a protein which corresponds closely with the protein standard set by the World Health Organization for optimum human nutrition. "Our patent will cover isolation of the gene and the construction of an artificial genetic sequence required to transfer the amaranthus gene into other crops," says Ashish Dutta, head of the JNU team. A few foreign biotech firms have reportedly expressed interest in buying the gene sequence.

Dutta's team has already begun laboratory studies to transfer the gene into rice, carrots and potatoes. "By inserting the gene into crops like rice, we hope to replace the naturally-occuring proteins to produce a new set of proteins considered best for edible purposes," Dutta claims. However, it would take 3 to 5 year before the first of these plants are ready for field trials.

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