Prev : Next The Axel patents
Physician and neuroscientist Richard Axel, microbiologist Saul J. Silverstein, and geneticist Michael H. Wigler, collaborators at Columbia University, file patent applications for ‘DNA transfection,’ or co-transformation, a method of inserting foreign genes into cells in order to manufacture proteins. The Cohen and Boyer invention described means of accomplishing this objective in prokaryotes, such as bacteria. Prokaryotes are cells without nuclei. The Axel-Silverstein-Wigler method, by contrast, expresses recombinant genes in nucleated eukaryotes. Its value derives from the fact that some genes coding for potentially valuable proteins can be expressed only in eukaryotic environments. The process becomes a standard tool in biomedical and biotechnological research. The USTPO issues the ‘Axel patents’ to Columbia in 1983. The technique is widely licensed, and the university earns tens of million per year in royalties until the patents expire in August 2000.