Intellectual Property Law in the Age of Synthetic Biology

On Friday, October 23, 2015 the Tufts Synthetic Biology team will be hosting a conference, Intellectual Property Law in the Age of Synthetic Biology: A Discussion on CRISPR/Cas9, with funding from Synenergene. We were inspired to hold a conference on this topic because of the current lawsuit between Dr. Jennifer Doudna and The Broad Institute of MIT over the patent rights to the CRISPR/Cas9 system. The conference will bring experts from a wide variety of fields including academia, law, policy, and business to have a public conversation with students and the general community on the implications of intellectual property law in the realm of synthetic biology.


The goal of the conference is to provide an opportunity for students to hear expert advice on the future of patent law related to synthetic biology. Attendees will learn about intellectual property issues they could face in the near future with regards to their own research, as well as hear opinions on current lawsuits related to this topic. The conference consists of two main components: speaker presentations and a discussion panel. Following the speakers’ individual presentations on their area of expertise, we will ask them a series of guided questions, which aim to delve deeper into the multi-faceted issues surrounding intellectual property law. We will then transition the discussion into an open forum, in which attendees can ask their own questions regarding their concerns.

Intellectual Property Law in the Age of Synthetic Biology

Location – 51 Winthrop Street, Tufts University, Medford, MA 02155
Date – Friday, October 23rd, 2015
Schedule -

(8:00 – 8:30 AM)     Set-Up
(8:45 – 9:00 AM)     Speakers Arrival and Registration - Breakfast provided.
(9:00 – 9:15 AM)     Public Arrival and Registration - Refreshments provided
(9:15 – 9:30 AM)     Tufts Synthetic Biology Welcome and Introduction
(9:30 - 11:00 PM)     Speaker Presentations
                                  David Taylor
                                  Colm Lawler
                                  Martha Bair Steinbock
(11:00 – 12:00 PM)   Lunch
(12:00 – 1:00 PM)     Keynote Speaker Presentation – Thomas Krause
(1:00 - 2:00 PM)       Discussion Panel followed by Open Forum
(2:00 – 2:30 PM)       Closing Ceremony

Sample Guided Questions

Should the government be able to grant patents over biological materials, such as specific genes or bioengineered systems?

The iGEM Foundation encourages student researchers to develop biobricks that are open-source and freely available to the scientific community. What is your opinion on this practice? Do you think students should be allowed to obtain patents for their research?

In regard to your area of expertise, do you think it is ethical to edit the human genome using CRISPR/Cas9? How do you foresee the government regulating this practice?

Thomas Krause – Patents and the Government

United States Patent and Trademark Office, Acting Deputy General Counsel for Intellectual Property Law and Solicitor

Thomas Krause is the Deputy and Acting Solicitor for the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). An expert in his field, Mr. Krause has 13 years of experience defending patent cases before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court. His work has also seen him assist the Solicitor General’s office in U.S Supreme Court cases involving copyrights and patents. Mr. Krause also teaches classes in Intellectual Property Appellate Advocacy and Intellectual Property Rights in Computer Software as an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University Law Center.

David Taylor – CRISPR/Cas9 Research

Howard Hughes Medical Institute and University of California, Berkeley, California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences, Postdoctoral Associate, Doudna Lab

David Taylor is a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Dr. Jennifer Doudna. He is currently researching cascade surveillance complexes, Cas9 RNA-guided endonucleases, and RNA-targeting type III CRISPR-Cas complexes. He graduated summa cum laude from Syracuse University with a B.S. in Biochemistry in 2008. Dr. Taylor received a M.Phil. and Ph.D. in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry from Yale University in 2010 and 2013 respectively, where he pursued research on the structural basis for RNA processing by human Dicer.

Colm Lawler – Technology Transfer and Licensing

Tufts University Technology Transfer & Industry Collaboration, Associate Director

Colm Lawler works with the Tufts University Technology Transfer and Industry Collaboration, primarily focusing his expertise to aid some of Tufts University's’ largest research hubs - Tufts Medical Center, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, and the Humans Nutrition Research Center on Aging. As an Associate Director, Mr. Lawler plays a huge role in managing the intellectual property assets and licensing of technologies. Mr. Lawler is specifically skilled in dealing with patent issues regarding start-up company formation in the different life science fields.

Martha Bair Steinbock – Technology Transfer and Licensing

Tufts University Technology Transfer & Industry Collaboration, Associate Director

Martha Bair Steinbock is the Technology Transfer Coordinator for the Pacific West Area of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS). Her responsibilities include developing research partnerships with industry and negotiating licenses for ARS technologies. Prior to joining ARS, Ms. Steinbock worked in Washington, DC as an International Affairs Specialist for the USDA Office of Agricultural Biotechnology where she helped in the development of USDA biotechnology policies on such issues as international intellectual property agreements, and biosafety guidelines. Prior to joining to USDA, Ms. Steinbock worked for the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations in Rome, Italy. She received a M.A. from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and a B.A. from Portland State University.