Part D. Patents and Commercialisation of Biotechnology

Part D describes the biotechnology industry in Australia, the impact of patents on the industry, and issues surrounding the commercialisation of inventions arising from publicly funded research.

Chapter 16 notes that the biotechnology sector is a growing sector that is highly dependent on patents. It comprises a mix of small and medium-sized enterprises; some larger companies, including subsidiaries of multinationals; and a range of research organisations, such as universities, research institutions, health departments and other government agencies. These organisations have an important role in developing intellectual property in genetic research.

Chapter 17 examines the transfer of upstream research from research organisations to the biotechnology industry for commercial development. The industry is highly dependent on publicly funded research, but there are concerns about the capacity of some research organisations to transfer intellectual property effectively. Impediments include lack of commercial experience or institutional support; researcher attitudes; difficulty in finding industry receptors; and lack of resources. The chapter discusses the variability in transfer practices and problems with lack of clear ownership of patented technology—factors that may also hamper effective technology transfer. The ALRC recommends a number of strategies to address these issues, such as programs to assist technology transfer offices to improve commercialisation of inventions involving genetic materials and technologies, and guidelines about ownership of intellectual property resulting from collaborative or jointly funded research.

Chapter 18 examines the impact of patents on the downstream section of the biotechnology sector and considers ways in which gene patents may act as a barrier to commercial development of genetic research results. Mirroring a recommendation in Chapter 17, the ALRC recommends that Biotechnology Australia develop further programs to assist biotechnology companies in commercialising inventions involving genetic materials and technologies.