2020(S09) Lecture:week 11

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Week 11 Studio

Ask Drew

We're very lucky to have Drew Endy here for the rest of this week. Tell him about your projects and then listen to what he says.

Week 11 Thursday

Challenge: Ownership and Sharing Challenge

Many useful genetic parts are currently protected by patents. For example, "uses of green fluorescent protein" is protected by United States Patent #5,491,084. At least 200 more recent patents protect additional uses of various fluorescent proteins. Patents are a legislated form of "intellectual property" by which inventors are granted a limited-time monopoly (~17 years) during which they can control access to the patented technology (e.g., by selling exclusive or non-exclusive licenses). In establishing the U.S. patent system, the founders of our country wanted to balance the sharing of inventions (e.g., via the publishing of patent applications) while also encouraging the investment and profit needed to drive innovation.

For today's challenge, many of your classmates will act as the inventors and patent holders of various genetic parts; each patent holder may license the use of their patents for profit (exclusively or non-exclusively), or give away the rights for free. Other classmates will act as investors who are seeking to license the complete set of genetic parts needed to encode the now familiar Eau d'E.coli system.

The first investor who is able to acquire licenses for all the genetic parts needed to encode the full Eau d'E.coli system will earn $100 in real cash money. This winning investor (if any) will be required to pay all inventors whatever fees might have been negotiated in obtaining the rights to use various genetic parts. If the promised fees are less than $100 then the investor can keep any additional cash. If the promised fees are greater than $100 then the investor must pay all additional licensing fees out of their own cash reserves.

The 12 components needed to produce a full Eau d'E.coli system are:

  1. A genetically encoded "inverter"
  2. A "constitutive PoPS source"
  3. A "stationary phase PoPS source"
  4. A "transcription terminator"
  5. A "weak ribosome binding site"
  6. A "strong ribosome binding site"
  7. The gene encoding the "ATF1" enzyme
  8. The gene encoding the "BSMT" enzyme
  9. The gene encoding the "PCHA" enzyme
  10. The gene encoding the "PCHB" enzyme
  11. The gene encoding the "BAT2" enzyme
  12. The gene encoding the "THI3" enzyme

Good luck and, perhaps, great profits!

After the challenge, consider the following questions:

  1. Was it easy or difficult to license parts?
  2. What determined the value of a part? Did inventors tend to overvalue parts? Did investors tend to undervalue parts?
  3. Were any parts licensed for free? Why?
  4. The challenge system in today's class contained 12 parts. Would it be easier or more difficult to license the parts for a system that contained fewer parts (e.g., 3 parts)? What about more parts (e.g., 100 parts)?
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