Gene patenting is set to become one of the major issues of the new century with corporations rushing to cash in on the pioneering research of the Human Genome Project. It is now possible to isolate our genes and identify them. Ultimately, this new knowledge is expected to lead to tangible improvements in treatments for various diseases such as cancer and AIDs. While such new treatments are many decades away, genetic screening is a closer reality, with screening for key breast cancer genes already common. Already, the Human Genome Project has resulted in both the private and public sectors filing for patents on genes as well as small pieces of gene sequences (also known as expressed sequence tags or ESTs). Those in favour of gene patenting say that if companies are not allowed to patent the products of their research, then other companies can exploit their findings to profit themselves. It can also be argued that genes satisfy the criteria of the patenting office in that they are found in nature and can be put to good use. As well, it's only fair that inventors should be able to protect their inventions and profit from their years of exhaustive research. Patents are typically granted for 20 years only so the patent holders are only able to benefit from their investments for a limited time. After this period, the monopoly ends. Patenting actively encourages openness in science because findings can be disclosed without fear of exploitation. However, gene patenting raises myriad legal and moral issues. There has been much debate about what constitutes a patent, how long the patent should be granted and whether patents are being issued too freely. Some believe that genes, which are the building blocks of human life, should not be considered as "products" to be patented or marketed because it shows a blatant disregard for humanity. Others say that banning patenting actually protects the public investment into genome research, which could become wasted if private companies stifle attempts to research into genes on which they hold a patent. The idea of turning research into such serious illnesses as cancer and AIDS into a profit-making exercise could be viewed as abhorrent. The role of medical research is to facilitate the development of cheap, available treatments and screenings for diseases and gene patenting seems to go against this process.