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About Patents, Other Intellectual Property & Human Biotechnology


Human biotechnology is both constrained and catalyzed by intellectual property law, which regulates who can use certain information, ideas, and processes. Patents—one form of intellectual property—give the holder an exclusive right to produce and sell an invention.

While patents provide an incentive to inventors, they can also inhibit information flow. Their management has a tremendous impact on how biotechnologies are developed, and who benefits from them.

In the United States, the development of biotechnology has been dramatically influenced by two developments in 1980 that greatly increased the incentives for the commercialization of the life sciences. Congress passed the Bayh-Dole Act, which reformed how inventions from federally-funded research are managed. The same year, the Supreme Court ruled in Diamond v. Chakrabarty that living things, including genes, could be patented.



Review of Blame: A Novelby Abby Lippman, Biopolitical Times guest contributorNovember 28th, 2016Blame is especially important for those unfamiliar with the range of ethical, social, legal, and political issues raised by applications of what is learned in a lab. While a work of fiction, it is definitely not science-fiction
San Diego Scientists Help Develop New Twist On In Vitro Fertilizationby David WagnerKPBSNovember 10th, 2016The patent holder for a related "3-person IVF" technique reports new work with "polar body genome transfer." Some experts say none of these approaches have been proven safe.
Where Traditional DNA Testing Fails, Algorithms Take Overby Lauren KirchnerProPublicaNovember 4th, 2016Various "probabilistic genotyping" programs undermine due process as defense attorneys, judges, and jurors can't access their proprietary inner workings.
Doubts About the Promised Bounty of Genetically Modified Cropsby Danny HakimThe New York TimesOctober 29th, 2016Genetic modification in the US and Canada has not accelerated increases in crop yields or led to overall reduction in pesticide use.
Fruity with a hint of double helix: A startup claims to tailor wine to your DNAby Rebecca RobbinsSTAT NewsOctober 27th, 2016Sequencing giant Illumina's new app store Helix is leading the charge of linking DNA analysis to lifestyle marketing.
Are Altered Mosquitoes a Public Health Project, or a Business?by Antonio RegaladoMIT Technology ReviewOctober 27th, 2016The fight against dengue and Zika in Latin America is turning into a contest between mosquito-altering technologies, and between profits and public health.
Blame bad incentives for bad scienceby Bethany BerkshireScienceNewsOctober 21st, 2016The publish-or-perish culture rewards researchers for the number of papers they publish, leading to sloppy and irreproducible science, and sometimes unethical practices.
Just What We Need: Slicker Infertility Marketingby Gina Maranto, Biopolitical Times guest contributorOctober 21st, 2016A serial tech entrepreneur launches a new start-up called Prelude with a hipster-chic website downplaying the many unknowns of egg freezing.
Crispr’s IPO doesn’t hit its targetby Robert WeismanThe Boston GlobeOctober 19th, 2016CRISPR Therapeutics' public offering raises half that of its rivals Editas & Intellia -- a sign that the market may be pulling back on genome editing stocks.
California stem cell agency approves $30 million to fast-track clinical trialsby David JensenThe Sacramento BeeOctober 19th, 2016Dubbed the new "pitching machine," CIRM's new $30 million effort is designed to accelerate clinical trials of stem cell therapies.
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