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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.



Broad Institute Gets Patent on Revolutionary Gene-Editing Method by Susan Young RojahnMIT Technology ReviewApril 16th, 2014The Harvard-MIT genomic science institute stays mute on how it will assert control over the tools expected to speed cures and change gene therapy.
Startup Offering DNA Screening of 'Hypothetical Babies' Raises Fears Over Designer Children[Quotes CGS's Marcy Darnovsky]by Catherine de LangeThe GuardianApril 5th, 2014Anne Morriss and Lee Silver are about to launch a company called Genepeeks that uses the DNA of sperm donors and recipients to create "virtual babies."
Breast Cancer Genes and Patient Protection in an Era of Personalized Medicineby Karuna JaggarHuffington PostMarch 20th, 2014Genetic testing is often heralded as a cornerstone of personalized medicine, but progress has lagged while persistent medical, ethical and scientific issues abound.
Hwang's Patented Fraud and
New Questions about STAP Cells
by Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesFebruary 19th, 2014Hwang Woo-suk is awarded a U.S. patent based on the work for which he was disgraced almost a decade ago; an investigation is launched into some apparently similar errors in the recent STAP cell papers.
Disgraced Scientist Granted U.S. Patent for Work Found to be Fraudulentby Andrew PollackThe New York TimesFebruary 14th, 2014Korean researcher Hwang Woo-suk faked evidence of having created the world's first cloned human embryos, embezzled research funds and violated bioethics rules.
Myriad Settles Gene Patent Lawsuit Against Texas Firmby Tom HarveyThe Salt Lake TribuneFebruary 7th, 2014Myriad Genetics has reached a settlement with Gene by Gene Ltd. and vows to continue legal battles against other competitors trying to jump into the market.
Global Patent War Looms With Epoch-Making Discovery of STAP Cellsby Tatsuyuki Kobori and Akiyoshi AbeThe Asahi ShimbunFebruary 3rd, 2014Japanese researcher Haruko Obokata's recent breakthrough in the creation of pluripotent stem cells in mice is set to trigger an all-out global patent war.
Gene Patent Case Fuels U.S. Court Test of Stem Cell Rightby Susan DeckerBloombergJanuary 5th, 2014As scientists get closer to using embryonic stem cells in new treatments for blindness, spinal cord injuries and heart disease, a U.S. legal debate could determine who profits from that research.
Tania Simoncelli: Gene Patent Foeby Heidi LedfordNatureDecember 18th, 2013A US science policy expert, and former CGS staffer, is one of Nature’s People of the Year.
Utah’s Myriad Genetics Ramps up Gene Patenting Disputeby Tom HarveyThe Salt Lake TribuneDecember 9th, 2013Myriad Genetics is enveloped in a spate of lawsuits over its gene patents, this time sparring with companies that want to erode its dominant position in testing genes related to breast and ovarian cancer.
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