The natural world carries great promise for the development of many commercial products and applications, especially in the field of medicine. Stringent rules and regulations control research and collection efforts (called “bioprospecting”) in the US National Parks, and have been in effect since 1983. However, the first research permit, granted in 1898, led to the most famous commercial discovery. Researchers collecting microbial specimens from Yellowstone’s hot springs discovered an enzyme called “taq polymerase”. After two decades of research the enzyme became an integral part of DNA duplication, which led to a very lucrative business in areas such as forensic medicine and disease diagnosis. Laws are now in place mandating scientific research in national parks, and that these research endeavors be a part of the park management process. A new law will also go into effect next year that will give the Park Service a cut of any profits made as a result of “bioprospecting,” with most research expected to continue to focus on bacteria.
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