This House Believes Patent Reform Is Necessary For Biotech To Thrive

Tuesday, July 8, 2014 6:30 PM - 9:30 PM

Tuesday, July 8, 2014
6:30 PM – 9:30 PM

Exploration Theatrette, Matrix Level 4
30 Biopolis Street
Singapore 138671

Patents give inventors exclusive rights for a limited period of time and thus provide incentives to undertake risky research projects. They also spur private investment to commercialise products and services.

The Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 was a landmark piece of US legislation that redistributed ownership of inventions funded by the federal government from the state to the academic institution where the discovery was made. The aim was to promote commercial development of new technologies by encouraging institutions to transfer their technology to the private sector. The Singapore Patents Act, introduced in 1994, contains legislation similar to the Bayh-Dole Act. As a result, patent filings by universities and research institutes have dramatically increased, but has innovation followed suit?

Conventional wisdom is that patents are necessary to stimulate private sector investment to develop products with high technological risk. However, some critics believe that the need to license numerous patents for a single product creates a ‘patent thicket’ that hinders development [1]. Others argue that the multitude of patents leads to underuse of inventions [2].

One key example comes from the late 90s: the race to sequence the human genome was on between the public-funded Human Genome Project (HGP) and the private company Celera. Genes first sequenced by the HGP were freely available to the public, whereas genes first sequenced by Celera were protected by a contract law-based form of IP that lasted for up to two years. Celera’s genes were released to the public once they were re-sequenced by the HGP, but until that point, Celera could sell its data for substantial fees and required firms to negotiate licensing agreements for any resulting commercial discoveries. Research has shown that for the genes held even only for a short term by Celera, there was a persistent 20-30% reduction in subsequent scientific research and product development [3].

In Singapore, there is increasing emphasis on commercialisable outcomes of public-funded research. Biomedical research is one of the key pillars of Singapore’s knowledge-based economy [4], so it is imperative to understand whether patents actually help or hinder innovation. Some believe that the overuse of patents here as Key Performance Indicators has resulted in research institutes having a mountain of patents with little evaluation of commercial potential.

Is patent reform necessary for the biotech industry to thrive? This House believes so.


  1. Cukier KN (2006) Navigating the future(s) of biotech intellectual property. Nature Biotechnology 24, 249–251
  2. Heller MA & Eisenberg RS (1998) Can Patents Deter Innovation? The Anticommons in Biomedical Research. Science 1 May: Vol. 280 no. 5364 pp. 698–701
  3. Do intellectual property rights on existing technologies hinder subsequent innovation? (2013) The University of Chicago Press


6:30 PM – 7:00 PM: Registration
7:00 PM – 7:10 PM: OBR & Speaker Introduction
7:10 PM – 7:15 PM: ESSEC Asia-Pacific Introduction
7:15 PM – 8:30 PM: Debate
8:30 PM – 9:30 PM: Networking Reception


Daniel Collopy
Daniel Collopy
Special Counsel, Spruson & Ferguson


Prof. David Epstein
Prof. David Epstein
Director, Centre for Technology & Development, Duke-NUS

Dr. Carl Firth
Dr. Carl Firth
CEO, Aslan Pharmaceuticals

Dr. Leigh Berryman
Dr. Leigh Berryman
Former CEO of Maccine

Ho Cheng Huat
Ho Cheng Huat
EVP, IP Management Division ETPL

Dr. Yvette Flanigan
Dr. Yvette Flanigan
Senior Patent Associate, VJP


ESSEC Business School

Biotech Connection Singapore (BCS) is part of an international network of non-profit organizations, that aims to promote the transfer of ideas from theory to real world applications by providing a platform for fostering interaction between academia, industry and businesses.

%d bloggers like this: