Great Lakes Bioenergy Center

As the U.S. increasingly turns its attention—and resources—to bioenergy and biofuels, the Madison Wisconsin Region is emerging as a national leader, both in research and commercialization, evidenced in part by the siting of the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2007, one of only three Department of Energy (DOE) Bioenergy Research Centers in the U.S.

Funded with an initial five-year, approxmately $130 million-grant ($25 million dispersed annually), the GLBRC was launched to make transformational, game-changing breakthroughs for biofuels, and more specifically cellulosic ethanol. The GLBRC is the only academically-based Bioenergy Research Center; the other two national Centers are the JBEI (led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory), and the BioEnergy Science Center (led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory).

The DOE grant to launch the GLBRC was awarded to the UW-Madison with Michigan State University as the major partner, though the University partners with other universities and private-side partners. The GLBRC has over 300 researchers on staff currently, spread between the UW Madison (roughly 200), partner Michigan State University (approximately 100), and a handful at partner institutions like Illinois State University, Iowa State University, Cornell University, and University of Minnesota.

Siting the GLBRC in the Midwest—and in the Madison Region at UW Madison particularly—was decided because of the pre-existing asset base of the area. Not only is the UW Madison rich in expertise across multiple fields (engineering, agronomy, crop sciences, sustainability, genomics, etc.), the region supports a host of natural resources used in this type of challenge. An earlier DOE “Billion Ton Biomass” study showed an excess of one billion tons of available biomass in the nation, most of which is found in Midwest (particularly Northern Wisconsin and Michigan) that could be used for fuel. Other siting factors include the presence and power of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) and the proximity of major Chicago and Detroit markets.

Now three years into their first five year grant cycle, the GLBRC continues on its initial course of research, which is diverted to four main research areas: improved plants, improved processing, improved catalysts and sustainable bioenergy practices. Researchers at the Center are doing everything from figuring out how to break down tough cell walls to answering questions like, ‘If we have a processing environment, how can we make that work efficiently, bring costs down, and make sure it’s sustainable (economically and environmentally)?’ While the GLBRC is set up to be a basic research center, there is a strong eye toward patenting and commercialization. WARFs leads the tech transfer group, and a process is in development to commercialize research breakthroughs.

The Center also embodies a strong Wisconsin Idea component, taking the science to the borders of the state and beyond for the public good. GLBRC has a large education and outreach component, which includes a number of Research Experience for Teachers (RET) programs. For example, over the summer, area high school teachers can apply to be part of the RET program, brought into research labs to work with the GLBRC scienitists to develop scientific activities to bring back to their classrooms.  Another program offers research experience for undergrads (generally targeted at underrepresented groups, or students from smaller colleges who might not have as broad a research opportunity as can be found at the UW Madison).

In many ways the GLBRC functions with a simliar outlook to the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery (WID), bringing together researchers from across many different disciplines to make discoveries not otherwise possible; the Center facilitates this with the grant, of course, as well as things like high-throughput services and shared high-end lab equipment: the underlying shared philosophy being that the whole is greater than sum of its parts, moving smart thinking to commercialized potential in the Madison Region and beyond.

Find more information on the GLBRC on their website: or via Twitter @GLBioenergy.

Jennifer Smith, Thrive | | Twitter @thrivehere
Thrive is the economic development enterprise for the eight-county Madison Wisconsin Region.


BIO International Convention: Policy Wonks and Science Wizards

Via Fast Company:

Policy wonks and science wizards unite at this year’s big biotech-industry conference in Chicago, where more than 15,000 attendees talk biofuels, health innovation, and superpowered agriculture with former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton and former vice president Al Gore. With roughly $250 billion in market cap and influence across a staggering number of sectors, it’s no wonder biotech managed to snag a bipartisan clutch of big names to key-note. “We like to invite speakers who challenge our industry and who don’t necessarily agree with us,” says Robbi Lycett, BIO’s VP for conventions and conferences. With an agenda that includes genetically modified crops and stem-cell research, we suspect that stirring debate will not be a problem. — LILLIAN CUNNINGHAM

Collaboration: The Key to Success

BIO’s PatentlyBIOtech Blog was started in November 2008 as a way for the friendly, funny, late-night-oil-burning staff at BIO to share the news, event, and policy information we receive by the second. We get so much news here, we have to share it for it to be of the most value to the public and the industry.

In terms of the Blog’s focus, we take economic development seriously.  We concentrate on understanding the trends in the biotechnology industry, and sharing information about those trends. We know that the best way to succeed in building a sustainable, strong economy geared towards meeting social goals in health, energy, and the environment is to work together. Just read the recent essay on collaboration by Rick Williams of the Hamner Institutes For Health Sciences (Hamner website):

The BIO Conference: A Platform for Collaboration

By Rick Williams, Chief Business Officer, The Hamner Institutes For Health Sciences

Rick WilliamsCollaboration among the world’s top biotechnology hubs is not only strategically sound, but critically necessary, and the BIO international conventions provide organizations worldwide with an annual opportunity to develop and strengthen results-driven partnerships. At BIO 2008 in San Diego, leaders from The Hamner met with representatives from China and Norway and began to discuss ways to work together. These BIO meetings were followed by a series of visits to each other’s respective headquarters and the signing of new agreements.

The Hamner’s partnership with China Medical City, located north of Shanghai, led to formation of a joint institute and an increase in research and business opportunities for Jiangsu Province and North Carolina. The new Hamner-China Biosciences Center has also signed subsequent agreements with six other major Chinese science parks and four leading research institutions. Collaborations with the Oslo Cancer Cluster are opening up additional research and technology-development opportunities between NC and northern European cancer centers.Rick Williams

Like The Hamner and its advantageous location in the middle of Research Triangle Park, China Medical City and Oslo Cancer Cluster have also been established in communities where there is a rich fabric of cutting-edge biomedical research accentuated by a high concentration of life sciences organizations and industry. China Medical City is a science park dedicated to the development and commercialization of biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and medical technology products; the Oslo Cancer Cluster is a biotech cluster organization committed to accelerating the development of new cancer diagnostics and medicines.

As an independent 501(c)(3) biomedical research institution, The Hamner has been built on a model similar to that of the Broad Institute and Whitehead Institute in Boston. It acts as a catalyst to link world class universities with a strong “eco-system” of pharmaceutical companies, biotech start-ups, drug development and regulatory experts, etc., thereby enhancing translational research and commercialization of new bio/pharma products.

The Hamner has expanded its NC collaborations to create a Global Biosciences Gateway, which focuses on translational research, training programs, biopartnering, and economic development. By working closely with academe, industry, and government agencies, The Hamner and its partners-like China Medical City and the Oslo Cancer Cluster-are working together to accelerate development of new biomedical technologies that improve healthcare for patients worldwide.

BIO looks forward to learning from and collaborating  with partners who, like The Hamner, see the importance in public-private funding, research, and product development for a healthier and safer tomorrow. Here are some recent additional examples that showcase BIO’s collaborative appreciation:

PatentlyBIOtech received its highest readership ever during the last two months, thanks to the excellent series of PatentlyBIOtech essays written by the staff at Thrive, the economic development enterprise for the 8-county Madison, Wisconsin Region.

You can read more about BIO’s ongoing activities on our blogs and at our annual International Convention website, which will be updated in real time starting this Friday, April 30.

MIT: Stanford v. Roche “Could Have Adverse Impact on Tech Transfer”

Link to MIT News article (“MIT to file amicus brief in intellectual-property case“):

The brief argues that the case threatens to undermine the Bayh-Dole Act, a federal law that has played a central role in America’s system of innovation. Enacted in 1980 as an amendment to the Patent Act, Bayh-Dole expanded and accelerated the transformation of ideas in the lab into the products, jobs and revenues of commercial enterprise.

Shout-Out: 2010 BIO International Convention Official Bloggers!

Surviving through a vigorous and brutal screening process,  BIO International Convention bloggers have to be smart, funny, and well-spoken. Think of our bloggers as the best final round of a dating reality show. Well, maybe they’re a little better than that.

Here are the official bloggers:

Follow their individual journey through the all the sessions, meetings, events, and receptions on via their personal coverage on their websites, and don’t forget to visit BIOtech Now (

Oh, and don’t forget PatentlyBIOtech and my twitter account, I’ll be providing real-time news at the Convention.

World Intellectual Property Day 2010: Countries Talk Policy

On World Intellectual Property Day this year, the World Intellectual Property Organization’s 2010 theme is “Innovation – Linking the World“:

Most people are aware of intellectual property (IP) – of copyright, patents, industrial designs and trademarks.  But many still view these as business or legal concepts with little relevance to their own lives.  To address this gap, WIPO’s Member States decided in 2000 to designate an annual World Intellectual Property Day.  They chose April 26, the date on which the Convention establishing WIPO originally entered into force in 1970.

Each year, WIPO and its Member States celebrate World Intellectual Property Day with activities, events and campaigns.  These seek to increase public understanding of what IP really means, and to demonstrate how the IP system fosters not only music, arts and entertainments, but also all the products and technological innovations that help to shape our world.

WIPO issues a message from the Director General each year, broadcasts a short publicity spot on international television channels, and dispatches posters and other promotional materials to IP offices and organizations.  Reports of activities organized by Member States are published on this site.

The aims of World IP Day are:

  • to raise awareness of how patents, copyright, trademarks and designs impact on daily life;
  • to increase understanding of how protecting IP rights helps promote creativity and innovation;
  • to celebrate creativity, and the contribution made by creators and innovators to the development of societies across the globe

What did the Victoria Espinel,  U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, say on the White House Blog?

During the past month, I have also met with dozens of companies throughout the country to whom intellectual property is very important.  I have heard concerns from the semi-conductor industry, tractor manufacturers, all facets of the music industry —from the recording studios to publishers, composers, and performers — the apparel industry, cement manufacturers, product safety certifiers, pharmaceutical companies, aerospace industry, labor unions, movie industry, cell phone manufacturers, software companies,  car part suppliers, internet auction sites,  biotech companies and many more. The number of industry sectors hurt by rampant counterfeiting and piracy is unacceptable. As a result of these meetings, I came away with a greater appreciation of the myriad of concerns out there.  And I intend to continue to meet with groups that have a stake in all that we are doing here in Washington as we move forward with developing and implementing the White House enforcement strategy.

What did Secretary of State Clinton say?

April 26 marks the tenth annual World Intellectual Property Day. The United States has celebrated and protected innovation and creativity since George Washington signed the first American patent in 1790. The ideas and inspirations of our citizens fuel our economy, enrich our culture and help us meet global challenges from climate change to poverty, hunger and disease.

Today, because of advances in technology and falling trade barriers, information and ideas circle the globe faster and more freely than ever. But these same trends have also increased intellectual piracy, from illegal file downloads to bootleg recordings to counterfeit products. Theft of intellectual property is a crime that erodes the incentive to create and poses a serious barrier to making legitimate products and services available to the public.

The Obama Administration is committed to fostering innovation at home and protecting intellectual property rights around the world. The President has named an Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator and at the State Department we have made intellectual property a diplomatic priority. We are working with our trading partners, businesses, and international organizations to protect intellectual property interests while opening markets for new technologies and products.

On the tenth anniversary of World Intellectual Property Day, we salute the scientists, inventors, writers, composers and other creative individuals who contribute so much to our common humanity. Let us work together to protect their innovation, and that of future generations.

  • to encourage respect for the IP rights of others.
  • In addition to the State agenda, the U.S. Department of Justice announced today:

    As part of the Department of Justice’s ongoing initiative to confront intellectual property (IP) crimes, Acting Deputy Attorney General Gary G. Grindler announced today the appointment of 15 new Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) positions and 20 FBI Special Agents to be dedicated to combating domestic and international IP crimes.

    Simultaneously with U.S. activities, today “Developing Countries Form Intellectual Property Group” (AP):

    The new group aims to transform the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) from a body servicing mainly holders of intellectual property rights to a U.N. agency helping members achieve development goals through “a balanced and calibrated use of intellectual property”, a statement said.

    The creation of the new group marks another step in the confrontation between rich and developing countries over intellectual property rights.

    Below are links to other World IP Day news, by Country:

    • New Zealand (“Calls to reinstate tax incentives”)
    • Cameroon (“Intellectual Property – Development Catalyst”)
    • Iran (“World Intellectual Property Day marked”)
    • Tunisia (“Tunisia observes World Intellectual Property Day”)
    • Grenada (“World Intellectual Property Rights Day”)

    Note: Last week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce published a report defending strong Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) (The Hill article: “Strict IP enforcement would boost economy“). CongressDaily’s Tech Daily Dose notes that tomorrow, Tuesday April 27, ” the Computer and Communications Industry Association plans to release its own study Tuesday that the group says will show that fair use of IP also produces economic benefits. The study found that ‘industries relying on fair use and other exceptions to copyright make up one-sixth of the U.S. economy and employ one of every eight workers,’ according to a CCIA statement Monday” (Link to CongressDaily article: “Dueling Studies On World IP Day”).

    BIO, AUTM Host Technology Transfer Symposium @ BIO 2010

    BIO-AUTM Technology Transfer Symposium
    Tuesday, May 4, 2010

    2:00 PM – 5:30 PM

    Hyatt at McCormick Place – Regency Ballroom B

    2233 South Martin L. King Drive

    Chicago, Illinois

    The BIO Technology Transfer Symposium, in partnership with the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM), will explore the role of universities in the U.S. innovation economy, with a particular emphasis on technology transfer. The Symposium will examine the opportunities and challenges of collaborative biotechnology research and licensing to heal, fuel, and feed the world. The Symposium provides a unique occasion for dialogue among a diverse group of university, company, investor, and policy thought leaders.

    Seating is limited. To RSVP and for additional information, email

    Download the Program Schedule. (743 KB PDF)

    Program Speakers:

    W. Mark Crowell, Vice President, Business Development, Scripps Research Institute; Co-chair, BIO Technology Transfer Committee

    Linda P.B. Katehi, Chancellor, University of California (Davis)

    Steve Mento, President & CEO, Conatus Pharmaceuticals Inc.

    Robin A. Chadwick, Schwegman, Lundberg & Woessner (SLW)

    Andrew Cittadine, Co-founder & CEO, American BioOptics

    Tom Skalak, Vice President for Research, University of Virginia

    Wes Blakeslee, Executive Director, Johns Hopkins University Office of Technology Transfer

    Polly Murphy, Vice President Business Development, Pfizer

    Eric Risser, Vice President for Business Development, Macrogenics

    Mark Rohrbaugh, Director, National Institutes of Health Office of Technology Transfer

    Jon Soderstrom, Ph.D., Managing Director, Office of Cooperative Research, Yale University
    The BIO-AUTM Symposium is sponsored by Schwegman, Lundberg & Woessner and Sunlight Research (SLW/Sunlight).  BIO Thanks SLW/Sunlight for additionally co-sponsoring the BIO-EPO IP Counsels  Reception.

    This Friday: Genetic Alliance Hosts Webinar on Myriad Gene Patent Case

    Friday, April 30, 2010

    12:00pm – 1:30pm ET

    The Myriad Gene Patent Case – What does it Mean, and Why Does it Matter?

    Hot Topics in Genetics and Advocacy

    A high-profile lawsuit aimed at invalidating gene patents, American Molecular Pathology et al v. US Patent and Trade Office, Myriad Genetics, recently reached an important stage. A federal district court granted summary judgment to the plaintiffs and ruled that Myriad Genetics’ patents on the BRAC 1/2 breast cancer genes and related method claims do not cover patentable subject matter and thus are invalid.

    This controversial case has polarized observers. Many groups, including Genetic Alliance, filed amicus curiae (friend-of-the-court) briefs expressing their strong views, and press attention has been keen. Some people feel that gene patents inhibit academic research, block access to treatment, and are just inherently wrong, while others fear that invalidating legal protections for gene patenting would reduce incentives for development and commercialization of new tests and treatments and would thus diminish the potential for the genomic revolution to benefit patients.

    Please join us for a webinar on Friday, April 30, at noon EST that will present both sides of this important debate. Professor John Conley of the University of North Carolina School of Law will moderate a frank discussion between Hans Sauer of BIO, which opposes the plaintiffs’ position, and Josh Sarnoff, who filed an amicus brief on behalf of the American Medical Association supporting the plaintiffs. We invite you to listen closely to disparate points of view – in hopes that as we listen, we can collectively move closer to common ground.

    John Conley – Of Counsel, Robinson, Bradshaw and Hinson; Professor of Law, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    Ann Waldo – Senior Counsel, Genetic Alliance
    Hans Sauer – Associate General Counsel for Intellectual Property, BIO
    Joshua Sarnoff – Professor & Associate Director, Glushko-Samuelson Intellectual Property Law Clinic, Washington College of Law, American University

    To register/attend the webinar, visit the Genetic Alliance website (link):

    A Disin‘gene’uous Lawsuit: ACLU Challenges DNA Patents

    From the mass production of life-saving medicines in cell cultures to the screening of our blood supply for life-threatening viruses, patented DNA molecules (often referred to as “gene patents”) are used in many ways to benefit society.

    The term “gene patent” is something of a misnomer because genes as they exist in the body cannot be patented. A naturally occurring gene — even a newly discovered one — cannot be patented. Patents don’t provide ownership rights over genes newly discovered in our bodies, and nobody can infringe a patent by having a certain gene or by passing it on to their children.

    Artificial preparations of isolated and purified DNA molecules, on the other hand, are patentable because they are chemicals with new qualities that fundamentally distinguish them from natural genes. Like other patentable chemicals that are derived from nature (such as antibiotics or organic dyes), purified preparations of DNA are patentable because they have been transformed through human intervention into something that is so different from the natural state that it qualifies as something new, useful, and man-made.

    This transformation begins with the purification and isolation of the natural DNA, which strips it of everything that makes it capable of functioning like a natural gene. The resulting DNA preparation has new qualities, advantages, and technical applications that allow it to be used in important new ways that are not possible with the genes that exist in our bodies.

    The inventor must also establish the detailed biological function of the gene from which the preparation was derived, and the claimed DNA must be new and distinct from all preexisting scientific knowledge. Finally, the inventor must disclose in a patent application a detailed scientific explanation that enables other scientists to replicate the invention. Identifying, deriving, characterizing and describing a DNA sequence in this way requires at least as much human ingenuity as synthesizing a new chemical, composing a new metal alloy, or other human creations that are commonly deemed patentable.

    In May of 2009, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) brought a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York to challenge several patents owned by the University of Utah Research Foundation that relate to genetic testing for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 breast cancer genes. The licensee of these patents, Myriad Genetics Inc., the directors of the University of Utah Research Foundation, and the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office were all named in the lawsuit. The ACLU has indicated that this is intended as a test case to broadly invalidate human gene patents as unpatentable and unconstitutional.

    This lawsuit aims to broaden access for clinical test providers and patients to patented genetic tests, but the legal arguments in the case reach far beyond breast cancer genetic testing, human gene patents, or even gene patents generally. If the ACLU’s legal arguments were adopted, whole classes of patents that today protect biologic drugs, biotechnology manufacturing processes, and other molecular biology inventions could be invalidated or drawn into question. Denying patent protection for such basic molecular biology inventions would not only impact genetic testing, but also remove incentives for the development of biologic therapeutics and personalized medicine products for many unmet medical needs.

    In our amicus brief on the case, BIO argues that decades of case law support the patentability of DNA-based inventions and, further, that patents claiming isolated DNA molecules are an important part of the intellectual property portfolios of many biotech companies. If DNA-based inventions were not patentable, these companies could be deterred from funding further gene discovery efforts and would find it much harder to attract the investment necessary for the lengthy and expensive process of producing life-saving therapies and diagnostics.

    Late in March, a federal district judge ruled some of the patents at issue in the ACLU case were products of nature that were not patentable under the Patent Act. While BIO believes this decision is in error, it is important to note that the judge explicitly excluded from his consideration of the issues the ACLU’s allegations that patents supposedly stifle research or impede patient access to genetic tests — allegations that BIO argued were contrary to the repeated findings of well-regarded research on this question. Further, the judge’s invalidation of the diagnostic method claims in the ACLU case was done under a Federal Circuit opinion (In re Bilski) that will soon be clarified further by the Supreme Court.

    BIO also notes that the District Court’s determination is only a preliminary step in the legal process, does not affect how the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) evaluates patent applications relating to DNA-based inventions, and is not binding on any other courts. Myriad Genetics has indicated that it will file an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C., and some legal analysts predict that the Supreme Court eventually could hear the case.

    Additional background materials on gene patenting can be found here.

    This article is by BIO’s Associate General Counsel for Intellectual Property, Hans Sauer.

    Where Breakthroughs Will Soon Call Home: Wisconsin’s BioAg Gateway

    The Wisconsin BioAg Gateway is a visionary project being sited on Madison’s southeast side at the crossroads of Interstates 90 and 94. This location puts the BioAg Gateway at the center of the Midwest’s IQ Corridor—two hours from Chicago, an hour from Milwaukee, four to Minneapolis—and just minutes to the Dane County Regional Airport, with over 100 flights a day.

    Importantly, the Gateway is a project that encompasses the natural and manmade assets of the area. The Madison Region is located in the driftless region of Southcentral—Southwest Wisconsin—the heart of “America’s Breadbasket,” between the Northwoods, the Misssissippi River Basin and the Great Lakes Basin. This location and landscape strongly inform our economy. Agriculture is a $1.86 billion industry in the Madison Region, we have the highest number of CSAs and farmers markets per capita in the region, and we are national leaders in food production and processing facilities throughout the region.  The research capacity of the University of Wisconsin—Madison works with our leading private sector companies to advance food safety, health, and to treat disease.  And we are in many ways the birthplace of the modern sustainability movement; the home of Aldo Leopold and John Muir, the launchpad for Gaylord Nelson’s Earth Day. The spirit of their work carries through to the region today in our cutting- edge R&D of bioplastics, alternative energy technologies, clean tech and environmental sciences.

    So, bringing it all together, the BioAg Gateway is an ambitious project, pulling together four integral components that take agricultural products from research to development to commercialization through the MidWest BioLink Center and the BioAg Business Park; and to continue to educate about and promote both our hertiage and our future to the public through the Ag Discovery Center and Ag Showcase.

    A little more about each of the four components of the BioAg Gateway:

    MidWest BioLink Center: A secure, state-of-the-art research facility, the Midwest BioLink Commercialization and Business Center will provide bio and ag entrepreneurs the catalyst to take their technology to the next level and beyond.

    • Experimentation and prototyping flex space
    • Controlled environment facility
    • Plant science commercialization greenhouse
    • Office and lab space
    • Pilot processing
    • Conference and meeting space
    • Business services and financial assistance

    BioAg Business Park: The BioAg Business Park will help bio and ag companies turn their breakthroughs into successful business ventures by quickly getting them up and running.

    • Building sites and commercial office space
    • Over 20 existing bio and ag businesses
    • Nearby resources:
      • Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection
      • Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene
      • UW Extension Ag Facility
    • Easy access to city, region and county

    Wisconsin Ag Showcase: A regional showpiece for visitors from around the globe, the Wisconsin Ag Showcase will demonstrate the area’s vast agricultural diversity and commitment to sustainability.

    • Ag crop and renewable energy showcase
    • Trade groups and corporate partners
    • Best practice demonstrations
    • Field test plots
    • Ag and bio exhibits
    • Pantry gardens

    Wisconsin Ag Discovery Center: A space designed for opening eyes, minds and doors, the Wisconsin Ag Discovery Center will educate visitors on all the amazing advancements taking place in the state.

    • Interactive center communicating and demonstrating invention
    • Emerging ag technology exhibits
    • Future of BioAg economy and new opportunities
    • Trailhead to state resources and innovators
    • Hands-on services for growers and ag entrepreneurs
    • BioAg success stories

    You can find the BioAg Gateway at BIO 2010 in the Wisconsin Paviliion: 4107

    Jennifer Smith, Thrive | |Twitter:
    Thrive is the economic development enterprise for the 8-county Madison, Wisconsin Region.