The patenting of human genes has been the focus of intense policy debate. The concerns associated with gene patenting are diverse, ranging from dignity based critiques to suggestions that patents will drive up the cost of health care. But the two concerns that have generated the most policy attention are that they hurt basic research (also known as the "anti-commons" problem) and access to useful technologies. The goal of this short comment is to question the degree to which existing evidence supports the speculation about these two justifications for patent reform. While the issues associated with gene patents are complex and extend well beyond these two specific issues, their profile within the patent policy debate justifies a consideration of what the available empirical data can tell us about the legitimacy of the concerns. The paper concludes with a discussion of several issues relevant to the interpretation of existing and emerging data.

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