In case you missed it live on Monday evening, video from the Petrie-Flom Center’s event “Gene Patenting, the Supreme Court’s Myriad Decision, and the Future of Biotechnology” (co-sponsored by the Broad Institute) is now available here.
09/27/13 UPDATE: Our intern Fatima Mirza also wrote up this summary:
At this event, a distinguished panel of law and biotechnology experts convened to discuss the landmark Supreme Court Myriad decision and its implications on the future of scientific innovation and development.
The discourse began with an introduction of the high-profile case that extended beyond simply the scientific, political, or legal spheres.
“A broad coalition of people came to file this case,” said Tania Simoncelli, former Science Advisor to the ACLU. “Everyone from clinical geneticists, genetic counselors, individual women who could not access testing, the American Medical Association, the American Association of Human Genetics, and the March of Dimes were involved.”
In order to provide context for the case, Glenn Cohen, Professor at Harvard Law School and Faculty Co-Director of the Petrie-Flom Center, offered a brief history of biotechnology and patent law. He highlighted developments from as early as 1911 when adrenaline, a naturally occurring compound, could be patented and distributed commercially based on the principle of purification. Emphasizing paradigm shifts in a rapidly advancing society, Cohen further outlined the role of the Patent and Trademark Office. “At the heart of patent law is whether we will have a pro-innovation or anti-innovation effects,” said Cohen.
While the Supreme Court decision certainly elicited widespread media attention, Claire LaPorte, Partner at Foley Hoag offered a more grounded perspective. “The actual implications [of the case] are small actually,” said Laporte. “The Supreme Court realized that they did not really understand the technology and thus made the narrowest ruling possible.”
Professor Benjamin N. Roin, Faculty Co-Director of the Petrie-Flom Center and Hieken Assistant Professor of Patent Law, complemented the discussion by proposing steps to ensure the case propagated long-term change. “We need a set of rules and standards that the PTO can use in order to decide whether or not to provide a patent,” said Roin.
Eric S. Lander, Director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Professor of Biology at MIT, and Professor of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School, enriched the forum with a scientific evaluation. His background demonstrated that information, in particular as it relates to science, is cumulative and thus must be shared in order to ensure advances. Furthermore, he delineated the division between conflated ideals of invention and discovery. “If something already exists in the natural world before the hand of man has come, it is the fodder for everyone’s invention and you can’t claim it by just getting there first,” said Lander. “Discovery may win a Nobel Prize, but it is not a new thing. You didn’t invent it.”
The event was moderated by HLS Dean, Martha Minow.
To view the amicus brief filed in Myriad by Professors Lander and Cohen, click here.