Images by B. Charnley

Graham Dutfield (University of Leeds), "Did Kary Mullis really invent PCR?"

Abstract: In the popular imagination, the world of invention is populated by ‘mad scientists’ or at least those rather larger than life characters who stand out as being extraordinary. In the life sciences, recent examples include Kary Mullis and Craig Venter. This is despite the increasing acknowledgement that all invention is to some degree collective. Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) technology is a fascinating case where the invention is closely associated with a single person, Mullis, who self-consciously plays on his eccentric genius image. His inventorship was confirmed in three ways: a Nobel Prize, a patent, and a court decision. Evidently he deserved all the credit that he received. And yet, the court decision was highly controversial pitting Nobel laureates against other laureates. Arthur Kornberg, for example, was quite dismissive about Mullis's contribution. This presentation will pose the question of whether, even when attribution seems so clear cut, doubts may reasonably remain concerning the true inventor or discover. It will also consider more widely the question of what we mean by 'discovery' and 'invention' and to what degree attribution is inherently questionable.

About this speaker: Graham Dutfield is Professor of International Governance in the School of Law the University of Leeds and an Adjunct Professor at the Center for Studies of Intellectual Property Rights at Zhongnan University of Economics and Law, Wuhan. His research on intellectual property crosses several disciplines, including law, history, politics, economics and anthropology. More general scholarly interests include the law, science and business of creativity and technical innovation from the enlightenment to the present, especially in the life sciences. Other research areas include intellectual property and access to knowledge, human rights, sustainable development, health, agriculture, genetics, biotechnology, traditional knowledge and folklore, bioprospecting, and indigenous peoples' rights.

Responses from Berris Charnley, Naomi Hawkins, Sabina Leonelli and Elena Simakova

More from this speaker

Graham Dutfield (2006), DNA Patenting: Implications for Public Health Research, Bulletin of the World Health Organization.

Graham Dutfield (2006), Protecting Traditional Knowledge: Pathways to the Future, International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development.

Graham Dutfield (2004), Intellectual Property, Biogenetic Resources and Traditional Knowledge, Earthscan Publications. @Amazon, @WorldCat.

Graham Dutfield (2003), Protecting Traditional Knowledge and Folklore, International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development.

Graham Dutfield (2003), Bioprospecting: Legitimate Research or 'Biopiracy'?, International Trade & Sustainable Development Series, Science and Development Network News.

Graham Dutfield (2003), Intellectual Property Rights and the Life Science Industries: a Twentieth Century History, Ashgate. @Amazon, @WorldCat.

Graham Dutfield (2000), Intellectual Property Rights, Trade and Biodiversity, Earthscan Publications. @Amazon, @WorldCat.

Downloads: Graham Dutfield: HQ .mp4 [1GB], LQ .avi [363MB], .mp3 [130MB], .pdf, poster. (Right click and "save as".)

Responses: HQ .mp4 [1GB], LQ .avi [415MB], .mp3 [150MB].

You can also watch this video on the IPBio Network's Youtube channel, here.