FSNews report (March 14, 2008) - Backpack Gene Sequencing Kit Sparks Wal-Mart Riots, and Gene-Patent Application Frenzy Reminiscent of 1849 Gold Rush.
A new backpack gene sequencer has hit Wal-Mart shelves, sparking dangerous aisle stampedes in the giant retailer's stores across the country. Hospitals reported a sharp uptick in the number of Trampled Toes and Elbowed Ribs showing up in ER's since the product's release.
So what's all the hype about? Consumers are rushing to get a hold of this year's must have consumer product. Called the D-NAP-Sack, an acronym for DNA Patent Speculator's pACK, the backpack device is the first consumer DNA sequencer to hit the U.S. market. Dr. Svenstein, the pack's creator, says that "the backpack will finally bring DNA sequencing to the masses." Analysts say that the product is sending shockwaves through the biomedical patent industry. "You no longer have to buy million dollar sequencers or trawl the bottoms of the ocean on a sailboat to find, sequence, and most importantly, patent genes," says one biotech analyst. "all you need is 30 bucks."
Earl, an Alabama native, borrowed $30 dollars from a cousin and started sequencing. He loves it. "It's so easy," he says, "You can just go into your backyard, grab something interesting, drop it in the front pouch of the backpack, and the D-NAP-Sack does all the work for you. It chops, dices, and sequences all the genes, and tells you all the genes it has found. If you put two things in, it finds the SNPs [Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms] too! Then, the pack prints out a pre-filled patent application form with an addressed envelope which you can mail to the U.S. Patent Office. All you need is a stamp. By the way, do you have thirty-nine cents?" Lucky for Earl, we did. "You can put anything in this thing." says Earl, "You'd be amazed. This DNA stuff is everywhere!" Earl has already filed for over 28 patents for previously undiscovered genes, and is hunting for more. One of those genes could hit the jackpot. Analysts say that a patent on a gene or SNP can be extremely valuable. You might have just found a cure for obesity, or the gene for being extremely tall. Earl has his finger's crossed, "I don't know what these genes I own do, but I hope it's important." Earl's wife is not so hot on the D-NAP-Sack. Things have started going missing around the house, including their cat.
The D-NAP-Sack's retail price is $29.97, but the hard-to-find item is listing on eBay at prices over $300, more than the Wii. The pack comes in dark forest green, desert camouflage, navy blue, and pink hello kitty varieties.