Tracking Synbio

Apr 12, 2018

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We've seen significant activity in this field in recent years. At least 2,800 U.S. patent grants given to more than 1,100 organizations (including companies, universities, and gov labs) since 2012.

Synthetic biology, or simply "synbio", is about the design and fabrication of biological components and systems that do not already exist in the natural world and the re-design and fabrication of existing biological systems. We've seen significant activity in this field in recent years. At least 2,800 U.S. patent grants given to more than 1,100 organizations (including companies, universities, etc.) since 2012.

The applications of synbio are very diverse. Among the most interesting ones are those that relate with CRISPR or gene editing technology. These technologies allow genetic material to be added, removed, or altered at particular locations in the genome. Only a relatively small share of U.S. patents relate to this particular technology: 54 grants given to companies such as System Biosciences LLC and universities such as MIT, and about 275 pending patent applications, according to our latest analysis. Basic, key patents for the development of this kind of application are likely to be within this set.

Some applications still sound like science fiction. Like, for instance, the recent patent application US20180010130A1 that relates to formulations and compositions to inhibit insect populations, including mosquitoes and flies. Remember the spread of the Zika virus in 2016? It'd be interesting to see how this kind of technology could help prevent transmission, or directly affect entire mosquito populations even before the virus is spread.

The University of California is the leading patentee in this field (as of today's analysis, about 2.5% of all synbio patents), followed by Samsung Electronics (1.9%), and Harvard University (1.5%). This is preliminary data of the time period 2012-today, U.S. patents only.

But, I actually picked that specific patent application example because of the organizations linked to it: this invention is not the result of corporate innovation or academic research, but one of the products of the collaboration between the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The U.S. Navy is actually a big player in technology patenting (more than 2,250 patents obtained since 2012), mostly focused on semiconductors, chemistry, data processing and weapons. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (with about 430 patent grants in the same time period), not surprisingly, focuses on organisms, agriculture and pesticides.

Check out our app to find out more about synbio and these organizations.


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InnovationPulse (Apr 12, 2018). Tracking Synbio. Retrieved from https://www.innovationpulse.com/blog/1/tracking_synbio/

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