PARTICIPANT: I am from the Fungal Genetics Stock Center. We have talked about this a little bit before. You mentioned that the U.S. government does not claim ownership in these materials, and you asked if the heirs to the people who collected them would own them, but, presumably, they were also originally scientists paid by a public entity.
We have the same issue with our collection. We do not really claim that we own these materials, but we are responsible for them. I was wondering if you had any further thoughts on that.
DR. KURTZMAN: No. I suppose anybody could challenge anything in court, can they not? And Charles Thom’s heirs may come along and say that because somebody in Peoria was trained by Charles Thom, they went out and recognized the right culture from a molded cantaloupe and saved the world, so they should somehow get a payback. I know that sounds extreme, but there are many possibilities, and I do not want to go into all of them. From my own perspective, I think it is kind of silly because, in most cases, the advances and discoveries that are made from these cultures are ones we could not predict. Now, if you and I are contacted by somebody not for the cultures per se, but for suggestions on the research, I would say we might be co-investigators on a project, but not because we simply supplied the germplasm.
Post symposium note: In November 2010, ARS decided for budgetary reasons that technical operation of the ARS Culture Collection was to be only by scientific support staff.