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4-Patents: U.S. initiative to overcome patent barrier to feed thehungry with GMOs (1)

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                                  PART I
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TITLE:  Universities to share technologies, retain rights in effort to
        fight hunger in developing countries and boost states' farming
SOURCE: Rockefeller Foundation, USA
DATE:   Jul 7, 2003

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Universities to share technologies, retain rights in effort to fight
hunger in developing countries and boost states' farming sectors

A group of leading U.S. public sector agricultural research institutions
has agreed to facilitate access to each other's current and future
patented agricultural technologies and is exploring ways to ensure that
new licensing agreements allow for technologies to be used to fight
global hunger and to boost the domestic agricultural sector.

The agreement will accelerate research and development to improve staple
crop varieties like rice, cassava, sorghum and potatoes essential to
resource-poor farmers in developing countries who depend on small farm
plots and face severe and very fundamental problems, such as poor
agricultural soils, drought, plant diseases and pests. Low production is
a perennial threat to resource-poor farming families and an important
factor contributing to the chronic undernourishment of about 800 million
people worldwide.

The agreement will also benefit the U.S. agricultural sector by speeding
up research, development and commercialization of specialty crops like
tomatoes, lettuce and grapes for characteristics including improved
nutritional value, better disease-resistance and reduced environmental
impact. These and other specialty crops, which are grown in specific
regions rather than across broad areas involving tens of millions of
acres like wheat and corn, are important to states' economies.

A new initiative, the Public-Sector Intellectual Property Resource for
Agriculture, or PIPRA (, has been established to
collaborate in managing participating institutions' intellectual
property. PIPRA will explore and encourage best practices in IP licensing
that will result in greater access to agricultural inventions for
subsistence and specialty crop applications. It will also establish a
mechanism for information sharing so that researchers at those
institutions can more easily determine what public sector-owned
technologies exist, who holds the rights, and if the technology has been
licensed, to whom and under what terms.

The initial participating research institutions hope to attract others so
that collectively they will eventually have access to the most important
current and future agricultural biotechnology patents owned by public
sector institutions. A critical fact is that the public sector invented a
diverse set of technologies that amounts to approximately 25 percent of
the total number of agricultural biotechnology patents. This is believed
to be a good indicator that the public sector can speed up research and
development by making it easier for researchers to obtain "freedom to
operate" - the ability to clear all intellectual property barriers, as
well as regulatory and cultural constraints, and bring a new product to
market - to develop new crop varieties important to developing countries
and state agricultural sectors alike.

A paper outlining PIPRA appears in the July 11, 2003 issue of Science
published by AAAS, the science society, and is signed by the presidents
or chancellors of Cornell University, Michigan State University, North
Carolina State University, Ohio State University, University of
California System, University of California-Riverside, University of
California-Davis, Rutgers-The State University of New Jersey, University
of Florida, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Boyce Thompson Institute for
Plant Research; the Rockefeller and McKnight Foundations; and the Donald
Danforth Plant Science Center.

Designated representatives of each participating institution, organized
in a steering committee, are developing options for PIPRA's organization
and structure. As they are working towards the articulation of a business
plan, several elements of PIPRA are already under development. A database
of patent and licensing information is being developed, a definition of
"humanitarian use" for inclusion in licensing agreements is close to
completion, and plans for pilot projects are taking shape.

The development of new crop varieties using agricultural biotechnology
depends on access to multiple technologies, which are often patented or
otherwise protected by intellectual property rights. Ownership of these
rights is currently fragmented across many institutions in the public and
private sector, which makes it difficult to identify who holds what
rights to what technologies, in which countries, and to establish whether
or not a new crop variety is at risk of infringing those rights. The
current situation creates barriers to commercializing new staple and
specialty crop varieties. PIPRA participants believe that if public
sector institutions would collaborate in retaining certain rights to
their agricultural technologies when licensing them to companies, and
cataloguing the existence and use of agricultural intellectual property
rights, that collaboration would lead to an acceleration in the
development and commercialization of improved staple and specialty crops,
thereby more adequately fulfilling the institutions' public missions of
providing knowledge for the benefit of the public good - as established
and often required by law.

Note to editors: Copies of the July 11, 2003 Science Policy Forum paper
entitled "Public Sector Collaboration for Agricultural IP Management" can
be requested from the AAAS, Office of Public Programs by e-mail at or by phone at 1-202-326-6440.

Media Inquiries Only: (212) 852-8456

                                  PART II
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

SOURCE: Ohio State University, USA, Press Release
DATE:   Jul 10, 2003

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Embargoed for release until 2 P.M. ET Thursday, July 10, 2003, to
coincide with publication in the journal Science.


COLUMBUS, Ohio - A team of 14 institutions and foundations, including
Ohio State University, is beginning a new national effort to make access
to developments in biotechnology easier.

The new initiative, called the Public-Sector Intellectual Property
Resource for Agriculture (PIPRA), is described in the July 11 issue of
Science. PIPRA is a roadmap of sorts, one that will help guide scientists
at public research institutions in managing and sharing their
intellectual property.

It will also change how universities and other research institutions
license new technological developments. The end result will be that
universities will have an easier time researching and commercializing new
crops when multiple institutions own parts of the intellectual property

A patent protects intellectual property and is generally issued to the
inventor of a new technology, while a license gives a business or
institution the right to put that intellectual property into use.

"Creating across-the-board access to proprietary and patented
agricultural information will be a boon for our researchers and their
colleagues at other institutions," said Ohio State President Karen
Holbrook, a co-author of the report. "In biotechnology, there are so many
patents affecting the various processes involved in a new development
that any one of those patents can block commercialization or use of that

"By sharing such knowledge with peer institutions we can better serve
local communities economically while supporting our university's global-
scale humanitarian efforts."

Land-grant institutions, including Ohio State, historically are the
source for information on new, improved crop varieties and other advances
in biotechnology. But the last 20 years have brought about important
changes in the way in which intellectual property rights for living
material are being granted, as well as the way public institutions manage
their intellectual property.

Such fundamental changes in the nature and ownership of innovations in
basic and applied agricultural research have complicated the mission of
U.S. public research institutions, according to the report. Agricultural
innovations are increasingly more important, reflected by the
biotechnology industry's desire to license such information and keep it

"In biotechnology, there are so many patents affecting the various
processes involved in a new development that any one of those patents can
block commercialization or use of that invention," said Steven Slack,
Ohio State's associate vice president for agricultural administration.
"Involvement in PIPRA lets member institutions have access to multiple
technologies that are patented by other institutions or otherwise protected."

Slack, who also directs the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development
Center in Wooster, added that multiple institutions often hold patents
for some aspect of the same technology, which may constrain the
commercialization of the technology or the actual research that the
investigator is involved in.

A university can assign use of its intellectual property rights through
licensing the development to businesses interested in commercialization.

In agriculture, the greatest business value involves big-market crops
that grow on tens of millions of acres in the United States, such as
corn, wheat, soy, cereal grains and cotton. However, many patents cover
specific steps or processes that lead to the development of new varieties
of crops and, therefore, affect not only these major crops, but specialty
crops as well.

Specialty crops, such as cranberries and pumpkins, are grown on many
fewer acres of land, often in specific regions of the country.

These specialty crops aren't as financially attractive to big-market
agricultural companies, and the complicated negotiations needed to enable
public scientists access to appropriate technology to develop improved
varieties of these crops is inhibitory, Slack said. There is a similar
impact in developing crops globally, which hinders subsistence farmers in
developing countries who depend on new technological developments to
improve their staple crops.

According to the report, public sector institutions hold roughly one-
quarter of currently patented agricultural inventions - a substantially
larger holding of intellectual property than any single agricultural
biotechnology company. But these holdings are fragmented at best.
Multiple ownerships make it difficult for a single institution to have
access to a complete set of intellectual property rights, which is needed
to commercialize a new crop variety.

Driving PIPRA is the belief that these inventions - often made by
scientists at public research institutions - are necessary to help
improve specialty crops grown in the United States as well as to assist
subsistence farmers in developing countries in growing enough food.

To meet these goals, PIPRA member institutions plan to:
- Establish a mechanism for easy information exchange among PIPRA partners.
- Give researchers the freedom to operate by clearing all intellectual
property barriers as well as the regulatory and cultural constraints
associated with bringing a new product to market.
- When issuing new licenses to private-sector agriculture businesses,
public-sector institutions will include a clause in the license retaining
the rights to use the new technology for humanitarian purposes.
- Work toward food security for the poor of the world. To do so, members
will accelerate research and development in order to improve staple crops
such as rice, sorghum and cassava, crops that are essential to
subsistence farmers in developing countries who face serious problems
with drought, poor soils and plant diseases.
- Help states improve the nutritional quality, disease-resistance and
environmental impact of specialty crops in the United States, as well as
create potential new markets for these foods.
- Work with the private sector to develop opportunities for
commercializing new technological developments.

PIPRA participants include Cornell, Michigan State, North Carolina State,
and Ohio State universities; Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey;
the University of California System, including UC-Riverside and UC-Davis;
the universities of Florida and Wisconsin-Madison; the Boyce Thompson
Institute for Plant Research; the Rockefeller and McKnight foundations;
and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.


Contact: Steven Slack, (330) 263-3701; or
Written by Holly Wagner, 614-292-8310; 


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