Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Assessing the Proper Protection Mechanisms for Bioinformatic Databases

Professor Julia Gladstone.

The rapid progress in digital information technologies and networks over the past twenty years has radically improved the ways that data can be produced, disseminated and managed in all spheres of human endeavor; this is most striking in the field of science, particularly bioinformatics. Bioinformatics which is estimated to generate more than a billion dollars of revenue per year, is the use of computers to acquire, organize, visualize and store information about biological molecules. In other words, bioinformatics is the creation of new information from underlying data.
This new science was defined by the research surrounding the Human Genome Project. More than 100,000 genes have been identified but the sequencing of the 3 billion chemical base pairs that make up the DNA is still being determined. Knowledge about the effects of DNA variation can lead to new ways to diagnose, treat and eventually prevent disease. The bounds of knowledge that can be derived from bioinformatics is still evolving and the Article/Presentation will address certain of the social and ethical implications of bioinformatics research.
Data about this DNA which must be arranged systematically and organized into databases to enable efficient analysis and further discovery is being published around the globe in numerous proprietary and nonproprietary databases. Establishing the proper balance of incentives for the development of these databases which is the subject of sharp difference and debate is the central focus of this Article/Presentation. If we bestow proprietary rights on the database owners under a loosened copyright or patent regime we effectively lose the public domain and confront anti -commons problems. Alternatively, one could adopt an "open source model" to the development of databases to encourage manipulation and changes to be made to the database while allowing the next person downstream to use it freely as well. The outcome of this debate will have a tremendous impact on the potential expansion in this field that is so critical to society's development.
In summary, this Article examines the area of database protection in the context of bioinformatics with a general focus on the Human Genome Project and its social, legal and ethical implications.


Professor Julia Gladstone  (United States)
Faculty Department of Legal Studies
Bryant College

Julia Gladstone is a Professor of Legal Studies at Bryant College in Smithfield Rhode Island. She has earned a B.A. in Economics from Smith College, a J.D. from Boston University School of Law and a LL.M in Banking from the Morin Center for Banking at Boston University School of Law. The author speaks frequently on Internet issues throughout the United States and internationally. Prior articles by the author which address legal developments in cyberspace have appeared in various law reviews and business journal

  • Intellectual Property
  • Ethics
  • Databases
  • Bioinformatics

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)