Intellectual Property, Surrogate Licensing, and Precision Medicine
IP Theory, Vol. 7 (2018)
20 Pages Posted: 30 Jan 2018 Last revised: 13 Nov 2019
Date Written: April 9, 2018
The fruits of the biotechnology revolution are beginning to be harvested. Recent regulatory approvals of “precision medicine” therapies target patients’ specific genetic, physiological and environmental profiles rather than generalized diagnoses of disease. These may soon be supplemented by gene editing technologies such as CRISPR, which could enable the targeted eradication of deleterious genetic variants to improve human health. But the intellectual property surrounding precision therapies and their foundational technology remain controversial. Precision therapies ultimately rely—and are roughly congruent with—basic scientific information developed in the service of academic research. Much of precision medicine’s IP, however, is held by academic research institutions that employ for-profit surrogate companies, companies responsible both for commercially developing university research and sublicensing university IP to others. This creates an uneasy tension between the public missions of universities and the commercial motives of surrogates, particularly universities’ goals of producing and disclosing scientific information, and surrogates’ goals of exploiting that information for commercial gain. This essay examines the challenges that surrogate licensing poses for the future of precision medicine, and recommends licensing approaches and best practices that may better promote scientific discovery, the development of human therapies, and overall social welfare.
Keywords: intellectual property, patents, licenses, precision medicine, CRISPR, biologics, drugs
JEL Classification: K00, K23, K41, O3, O34, D23, K11
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation