2020(S10) Lecture:week 12

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Week 13 Tuesday

Project Work Day + Consultations

Got Milk?


  • Isaac Berzin, former CTO GreenFuel (11am EST), meet 16-325 @ 10:50

D. V.

  • [Jan Kok] Groningen iGEM 2009 team leader, Skype 26-152 @11:15 (5:15 in the Netherlands)
  • Mike Laub 12 in 26-152

Week 12 Studio

Project Work Day + Consultations

Got Milk?

  • Drew Endy quick call or Skype ~4PM
  • Chris Voigt FRIDAY--2PM EST, 11AM PST. Skype call arranged through Derek.


  • Jeff Way 26-152, 4PM visit to 26-152
  • Noah Davidson from Weiss lab 3PM
    • Isaac Berzin, former CTO GreenFuel (2PM EST)?

D. V.

Week 12 Thursday

This challenge was originally developed and written by Drew Endy, then modified with help from Scott Kuldell.

After we run this challenge, we will have a chance to talk with David Grewal, a newly minted PhD from Harvard's Government Department. He is also a BioBricks Foundation board member and has played a major role in the development of their public agreement to govern ownership and sharing of BioBrick parts.

Ownership and Sharing Challenge

Many useful genetic parts are currently protected by patents. For example, "uses of green fluorescent protein" is protected by United States Patent #5,491,084. At least 200 more recent patents protect additional uses of various fluorescent proteins. Patents are a legislated form of "intellectual property" by which inventors are granted a limited-time monopoly (~17 years) during which they can control access to the patented technology (e.g., by selling exclusive or non-exclusive licenses). In establishing the U.S. patent system, the founders of our country wanted to balance the sharing of inventions (e.g., via the publishing of patent applications) while also encouraging the investment and profit needed to drive innovation.

For today's challenge, you will act as EITHER the inventors and patent holders of various genetic parts or the investors hoping to assemble and earn $ off a completed system.

If you are an INVENTOR

  • Each inventor holds a patent or two that cost either $1, $5, or $20 to secure. You will have to "pay" this money up front and will be reimbursed at the end of the day, either by the investor who will want to license your technology or by the clients/teachers.
  • Patent holders may license the use of their patents for profit (exclusively or non-exclusively), or give away the rights for free
  • Patent holders will not know how much the final client/teachers are willing to pay for the complete Eau d'coli system
  • Be aware that there are 12 components needed to produce a full Eau d'coli system, namely:
  1. A genetically encoded "inverter"
  2. A "constitutive promoter"
  3. A "stationary phase promoter"
  4. A "transcription terminator"
  5. A "weak ribosome binding site"
  6. A "strong ribosome binding site"
  7. The gene encoding the "ATF1" enzyme
  8. The gene encoding the "BSMT" enzyme
  9. The gene encoding the "PCHA" enzyme
  10. The gene encoding the "PCHB" enzyme
  11. The gene encoding the "BAT2" enzyme
  12. The gene encoding the "THI3" enzyme

If you are an INVESTOR

  • Each investor is seeking to license the complete set of genetic parts needed to encode the Eau d'coli system.
  • The first investor who is able to acquire licenses for all the genetic parts needed to encode the full Eau d'coli system will earn real cash money!! The pay out will be told to the investor group but should not be shared with the inventors and patent holders.
  • The winning investor (if any) will be required to pay all inventors whatever fees might have been negotiated in obtaining the rights to use various genetic parts.
  • If the promised fees are less than the pay out then the investor can keep any additional cash (really).
  • If the promised fees are greater than the pay out then the investor must pay all additional licensing fees out of their own cash reserves. (really, but it would be better to re-negotiate your licensing deals than to have this challenge cost you $$).

Good luck and, perhaps, great profits!

Why are we doing this??

After the challenge, we'll consider the following questions:

  1. Was it easy or difficult to license parts?
    • hard to license parts, wanted more $, limited # of patents to be had, competition for same parts,
  2. What determined the value of a part? Did inventors tend to overvalue parts? Did investors tend to undervalue parts?
    • cost of production
    • how much the investor wanted
    • knowing how much the completed system is worth would have helped value the parts
    • if there's no other competition
  3. Were any parts licensed for free? Why?
    • no...but for the good of the many
  4. Were any parts offered through exclusive licensing agreements?
    • yes but those investors re-licensed to another investor for less...and "went out of business"--where does that leave the patent holder?
  5. The challenge system in today's class contained 12 parts. Would it be easier or more difficult to license the parts for a system that contained fewer parts (e.g., 3 parts)? What about more parts (e.g., 100 parts)?
    • fewer parts easier...because it would drive down costs
    • or harder if more competitive
    • how many own enzymes or parts
    • net benefit
  6. In the "real world" deals are often brokered between the same parties more than once...this year you have a deal for Eau d'coli, next year for something else. How would the fact that you may have to deal with the investor/inventor again change the dynamic of today's challenge?
    • I told other investors about existing deals...
    • inventor set minimum price