Yellowstone mulls corporate research royalties

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Yellowstone mulls corporate research royalties.

The Associated Press.

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. (AP) — Yellowstone National Park has received about 70 comments so far on a proposal to collect royalties for scientific research in the park.

Kevin Schneider, who is helping conduct an environmental study of the proposal for the park, said the comments range from people supportive of the idea to those who think the park should not be in the business of making money.

The public comment period closed in late August. Another comment period is expected to begin when a draft proposal is released next spring, Schneider said.

At issue is a new field of bioprospecting in which companies send researchers to parks to take soil and water samples. Back at laboratories, scientists can isolate and replicate the collected bacteria or microbes for the benefit of health and science.

For example, a microbe discovered in the park and used for multiplying DNA earned $1 billion for the patent-holder, said John Varley, director of Yellowstone’s Center for Resources. DNA multiplication is used in fingerprinting and medical diagnostic kits.

The park earned nothing, Varley said.

Critics have said profit-sharing between the park and companies will lead parks to compete against each other to lure scientists, at the expense of the environment.

Schneider said commercialization is prohibited by law and that profit-sharing would not be a major funding source for the park because so few science experiments actually pan out. Discoveries that are commercial may take 10 to 20 years of additional research before the companies make a profit.

At least 18 patents have been issued for microbes extracted from the park, Varley said.
 
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