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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.



Kaiser Permanente's Genetic Database Is Boon to Medical Researchby Emily AnthesBloomberg BusinessweekSeptember 25th, 2014The health network has accumulated genetic data on more than 210,000 members.
Experts Provide Much-Needed Policy Analysis for Clinical Integration of Next Generation Sequencing by Glenna PictonBaylor College of Medicine NewsSeptember 22nd, 2014As genetic sequencing becomes part of clinical care, there is a critical need to establish appropriate policies and regulatory frameworks to address potential challenges.
A New Generation of GMOsby Josie GarthwaiteEnsiaSeptember 18th, 2014Is synthetic biology on its way to our farms, markets and tables?
Genetic Rights and Wrongsby EditorialNatureSeptember 9th, 2014Australia’s decision to uphold a patent on biological material is in danger of hampering the development of diagnostic tests.
Australian Federal Court Rules Isolated Genetic Material can be PatentedThe GuardianSeptember 4th, 2014The decision is likened to ‘being allowed to patent oxygen’, as critics warn of serious repercussions for medical research.
Synthetic biology goes for scaleby Joanna GlasnerReutersSeptember 2nd, 2014Synthetic biology, which uses engineered gene sequences to create new biological systems and devices, used to be a subject for futurists and sci-fi writers, but now is attracting large investments.
Biotech Reels Over Patent Rulingby Erika Check-HaydenNature NewsJuly 8th, 2014Firms fight for the right to patent natural products and processes.
Isolated Nucleic Acids are Patent Eligible in Australiaby Shelley RowlandLexologyJune 25th, 2014Applicants opposed to the patenting of human genetic material have lodged an appeal against Australia's Full Federal Court.
Stem Cells: Taking a Stand Against Pseudoscienceby Elena Cattaneo & Gilberto CorbelliniNatureJune 16th, 2014A pharmacologist and a bioethicist working to protect patients from questionable stem-cell therapies share their experiences in the fight against predatory pseudoscience.
Who Owns Your Genetic Data? Hint: It's Probably Not Youby Meredith SalisburyThe Huffington PostJune 12th, 2014It seems intuitive to many of us that each person owns his or her genetic data and therefore should control access. But the reality is more complex.
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