Week 11 Tuesday
Ownership and Sharing
This challenge was originally developed and written by Drew Endy, then modified with help from Scott Kuldell.
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, you will act as EITHER the inventors and patent holders of various genetic parts or the investors hoping to assemble and earn $ off a completed system.
If you are an INVENTOR
- Each inventor holds a patent or two that cost either $1, $5, or $20 to secure. You will have to "pay" this money up front and will be reimbursed at the end of the day, either by the investor who will want to license your technology or by the clients/teachers.
- Patent holders may license the use of their patents for profit (exclusively or non-exclusively), or give away the rights for free
- Patent holders will not know how much the final client/teachers are willing to pay for the complete Eau d'coli system
- Be aware that there are 12 components needed to produce a full Eau d'coli system, namely:
- A genetically encoded "inverter"
- A "constitutive promoter"
- A "stationary phase promoter"
- A "transcription terminator"
- A "weak ribosome binding site"
- A "strong ribosome binding site"
- The gene encoding the "ATF1" enzyme
- The gene encoding the "BSMT" enzyme
- The gene encoding the "PCHA" enzyme
- The gene encoding the "PCHB" enzyme
- The gene encoding the "BAT2" enzyme
- The gene encoding the "THI3" enzyme
If you are an INVESTOR
- Each investor is seeking to license the complete set of genetic parts needed to encode the Eau d'coli system.
- The first investor who is able to acquire licenses for all the genetic parts needed to encode the full Eau d'coli system will earn real cash money!! The pay out will be told to the investor group but should not be shared with the inventors and patent holders.
- The 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 the pay out then the investor can keep any additional cash (really).
- If the promised fees are greater than the pay out then the investor must pay all additional licensing fees out of their own cash reserves. (really, but it would be better to re-negotiate your licensing deals than to have this challenge cost you $$).
Good luck and, perhaps, great profits!
Links to consider after we're done!
[biotech without borders]
[copyright infringement by "synthia"]
[copyright the periodic table]
[science news coverage of patent dispute]
Why are we doing this??
After the challenge, we'll consider the following questions:
- Was it easy or difficult to license parts?
- What determined the value of a part? Did inventors tend to overvalue parts? Did investors tend to undervalue parts?
- Were any parts licensed for free? Why?
- Were any parts offered through exclusive licensing agreements?
- 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)?
- In the "real world" deals are often brokered between the same parties more than once...this year you have a deal for Eau d'coli, next year for something else. How would the fact that you may have to deal with the investor/inventor again change the dynamic of today's challenge?
Week 11 Studio
Project work day
Week 11 Thursday
Project work day
Today you have a choice. You can choose to attend the Cambridge Science Festival
or you can plan to meet up and work with your group. The normal classroom will be open, or you could meet someplace more convenient for you all. Use your time as you see fit but do get a plan in place to make good use of the weekend.