Upstream and downstream issues

18.3 As discussed in Chapter 12, the process of moving new technology from the research stage through to product development is sometimes divided into ‘upstream’ and ‘downstream’ phases. However, this division does not form a bright line between genetic research and commercialisation. Upstream research takes place across the entire biotechnology sector, in commercial ventures as well as research institutions. Hence, many of the issues discussed in Chapter 12 are also relevant to the sector as a whole.

18.4 Within the biotechnology industry, upstream companies generally focus on conducting further research to add value to technology. The technology is then generally transferred to companies further downstream to be developed into commercial products.

18.5 Some of the potential barriers to commercialisation considered in this chapter are more likely to affect downstream companies—royalty-stacking and reach-through provisions are examples. Other concerns will also be relevant to upstream genetic research. For example, blocking patents and patent thickets may prevent researchers from accessing technology for research purposes, either for use in research (such as research tools) or to improve upon it. The cumulative nature of genetic research means that reach-through provisions in licences of foundational patents, including patents on research tools, may affect further research. These issues are discussed in Chapter 12.