A report entitled ‘Economic Analysis of the Impact of Isolated Human Gene Patents’, produced by The Centre for International Economics (CIE) on behalf of IP Australia, has recently been published.

Key findings of the report are:

  • Patents play an important role in incentivising innovation and the public-private partnerships required to bring new human gene based medicines and diagnostics to market.
  • Isolated human gene patents play less of a role in this incentive now than they have in the past, with the number of patents granted for isolated human gene sequences declining dramatically since the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003.
  • Patenting activity is increasingly focused on methods of using isolated gene sequences and on modified (i.e. not naturally occurring) DNA and genetic sequences created in laboratories.
  • Approximately $795m was invested in gene technologies related to human health in Australia during 2011-12, and this has been rising over time. Isolated human gene sequences are part of that investment, but it is not possible to isolate the precise share. Of the total $795m, 79% was publicly funded and 21% ($164m) was private.
  • Measurable economic impacts associated with isolated human gene sequence patents are small in terms of royalty and fee income attributable to the patent. An estimated total of $1.1m to $2.6m per annum is earned by publicly funded research institutions. It was not possible to estimate the returns that private patent owners earn in foreign markets, where we know Australians filed 58% more patents in 2011 than they did at home.
  • Costs often cited as caused by isolated human gene patents, e.g. price of gene diagnostic tests or the inability to improve on diagnostics, do not appear to be the result of the patent itself, but rather issues over exclusive licensing, complexity of the technology or business relations. No additional economic cost attributable to these patents could be identified.

The full report can be found here [PDF, 1.83MB].

This article first appeared in IAM magazine. For further information please visit www.iam-magazine.com.