Bioengineered bugs, drugs and contentious issues in patenting

by Ananda M Chakrabarty
Bioengineered ()


Bioengineered bugs, as is the scope of this journal, have great potential in various practical applications. A corollary to bringing useful products to the market is that such products need protection from copying by other people or businesses. Such government-sponsored protections are legally enforced through a patent, copyright or trademark/trade secret system commonly known as intellectual property rights. A condition for obtaining a patent is that the invention must not be disclosed to public either through seminars, informal public disclosures or publications in journals, although in the United States, there is a one year grace period that is allowed to obtain a patent after public disclosure. This article describes my personal experience in obtaining a patent in 1980 on a genetically manipulated bacterium designed for oil spill cleanup. This patent application went through a series of court cases that finally ended up in the Supreme Court of the United States. I also mention a similar contentious legal issue that is on the horizon and that the readers of Bioengineered Bugs should be aware of. Finally, I have taken the opportunity to describe my current efforts to bring to the market some unique potential multi-disease-targeting candidate drugs from Pseudomonas aeruginosa and gonococci/meningococci that, if found non-toxic and efficacious in humans, will revolutionize the drug industry. To ensure their marketability, we are trying to develop a patent portfolio that will ensure that they will be legally protected and such protections will be broad-based and enforceable.

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