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The Segregated Genome: Exploring the Intersections of Law, Commerce, and Race in Biotechnology

Jonathan Kahn is Associate Professor at Hamline University School of Law. He holds a Ph.D. in U.S. History from Cornell University and a J.D. from the Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California, Berkeley. His current research focuses on the intersections of law, race, and genetics, with particular attention to how regulatory mandates intersect with scientific, clinical and commercial practice in producing and classifying genetic information in relation to racial categories. He has received research grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He is the author of Budgeting Democracy: State Building and Citizenship in America, 1897-1928 (Cornell U. Press, 1997) and numerous articles on law, genetics, and identity, including, "How a Drug Becomes ‘Ethnic’: Law, Commerce and the Production of Racial Categories in Medicine," in the Yale Journal of Health Policy, Law & Ethics, and “Race-ing Patents/Patenting Race: An Emerging Political Geography of Intellectual Property in Biotechnology,” in the Iowa Law Review.
When Oct 25, 2007
from 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM
Where Berg Auditorium, 100 Life Sciences Building
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JONATHAN KAHN, J.D., PH.D.

 

Associate Professor, Hamline University School of Law

Jonathan Kahn is Associate Professor at Hamline University School of Law. He holds a Ph.D. in U.S. History from Cornell University and a J.D. from the Boalt Hall School of Law, University of California, Berkeley. His current research focuses on the intersections of law, race, and genetics, with particular attention to how regulatory mandates intersect with scientific, clinical and commercial practice in producing and classifying genetic information in relation to racial categories. He has received research grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He is the author of Budgeting Democracy: State Building and Citizenship in America, 1897-1928 (Cornell U. Press, 1997) and numerous articles on law, genetics, and identity, including, "How a Drug Becomes ‘Ethnic’: Law, Commerce and the Production of Racial Categories in Medicine," in the Yale Journal of Health Policy, Law & Ethics, and “Race-ing Patents/Patenting Race: An Emerging Political Geography of Intellectual Property in Biotechnology,” in the Iowa Law Review.

The Segregated Genome: Exploring the Intersections of Law, Commerce, and Race in Biotechnology

This presentation examines an emerging phenomenon in biotechnology research and product development—the strategic use of race as a genetic category to obtain patent protection and drug approval. A dramatic rise in the use of race in biotechnology patents indicates that researchers and affiliated commercial enterprises are coming to see social categories of race as presenting opportunities for gaining, extending, or protecting monopoly market protection for an array of biotechnological products and services. Racialized patents are also providing the basis for similarly race-based clinical trial designs, drug development, capital raising and marketing strategies that carry the implication of constructing of race as genetic out to ever widening and consequential segments of society.

The introduction of race in the field of patent law as an adjunct to biotechnological inventions is producing a new political geography of intellectual property in which “neighborhoods” of the genome are being racially marked. The result is the creation of a segregated genome, where racial identity is layered onto genetic variation in order to produce and extract capital value from DNA. As patents are racialized, racial identity itself is becoming a patentable commodity whose value is being appropriated to expand market control and extend the market life of their products. Generally speaking, however, the people capitalizing on race are not necessarily those who belong to the racially identified groups, but rather those corporations that are literally “investing” their patents and products with race to gain commercial advantage in the research, development, and marketing of new biotechnology products. Patenting race may thus have profound implications both for the equitable distribution of benefits derived from biotechnology and for broader social understandings and mobilizations of race.