Global microbial commons: institutional challenges for the global exchange and distribution of microorganisms in the life sciences.

Université catholique de Louvain (UCLouvain), Centre de Philosophie du Droit, Collège Thomas More b146, Place Montesquieu 2 box15, B-1348 Belgium.
Research in Microbiology (Impact Factor: 2.83). 07/2010; 161(6):414-21. DOI: 10.1016/j.resmic.2010.04.012
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Exchanges of microorganisms between culture collections, laboratories and researchers worldwide have historically occurred in an informal way. These informal exchanges have facilitated research activities, and, as a consequence, our knowledge and exploitation of microbial resources have advanced rapidly. During the last decades of the twentieth century, the increasing economic importance of biotechnology and the introduction of new legislation concerning the use of and access to biological resources has subjected exchanges of genetic resources to greater controls. Their access and distribution are more strictly regulated and, therefore, exchanges are becoming more and more formalized. This paper analyzes one of the main drivers of the movement toward more formal worldwide exchange regimes, which is increasing global interdependency of access to genetic resources. Its main finding is that formalization of exchange practices as such is not necessarily leading to more restrictive licensing conditions. The goal of further formalization and harmonization of institutional frameworks should therefore be to provide the broadest possible access to essential research materials (within the constraints set by biosecurity and quality management requirements), while maximizing the reciprocity benefits of access and exchange (which motivate the exchange practices to start with).

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