What are the key emerging technologies for which patent maps may be made?
Patents on genes and promoters—the entire rice genomic sequence has been made public, but companies have still been able to file patent applications claiming the rights to use many of the genes in the rice genome, and sequences that control their expression (often called “promoters”). CAMBIA has already developed a work-around to many “promoter” patents, which is freely available to all who’ve agreed to the terms of a BiOS license. The IRRI-CAMBIA project is preparing a publication on patent constraints over rice genes, and promoters effective in rice that are available for use is the subject of a related study sponsored by WIPO.
Here are some other things on which we'd like to see studies; perhaps you can help! Contact us at IPIT@cambia.org.
- Gene silencing technologies such as RNAi have become a focus of much patent application activity, and such patents or uncertainty about them can prevent use of the genomic sequence information that has often been obtained at public expense. The same is often true of microarray technologies, used to understand gene expression as well as to accelerate classical plant breeding methods (CAMBIA has developed a genomic microarray invention that bypasses gene sequencing for high throughput marker assisted selection, freely available to all who’ve agreed to the terms of a BiOS license). We seek to create technology landscapes for each of these emerging technologies.
- Homologous recombination is a process of making precise, natural genetic enhancements. Homologous recombination occurs naturally in all organisms, and especially frequently in organisms that have to survive and reproduce in very diverse stressful environments. Homologous Allelic Recombination Technologies, HARTs are tools that allow the replacement of a small portion of DNA sequence. Some of the methods used for HARTs have already become the subject of patent mazes. These are targets for us because they can have broad applications in all life sciences technologies, from public health to agriculture.
- Apomixis is the technical term for a process for obtaining true breeding hybrids of crop species that would allow farmers in developing countries to use hybrid seed year after year. Currently, farmers may be forced to return to multinational seed companies year after year to maintain genetically improved crops. Apomixis is the functional opposite of “terminator” technologies, turning some of the same tools to an empowerment use. Key genes and tools involved in plant reproduction, many already subject to patent applications, could be important to enable apomixis in diverse crop species.