Download 'Scientist Coalition Letter re: Draft Proposal to Amend Sec. 101 of Patent Act' as PDF

June 13, 2019

 

Senator Chris Coons

218 Russell Senate Office Building  

Washington D.C., 20510

 

Senator Thom Tillis

113 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Washington D.C., 20510

 

Representative Doug Collins

1504 Longworth House Office Building

Washington D.C., 20515

 

Representative Hank Johnson

2240 Rayburn House Office Building

Washington D.C., 20515

 

Representative Steve Stivers

2234 Rayburn House Office Building

Washington D.C., 20515

 

 

Dear Sens. Coons and Tillis, and Reps. Collins, Johnson and Stivers:

 

We are writing to express our concerns about draft legislation recently proposed by the House and Senate Judiciary Committees that would alter the criteria for patent eligibility in the US, in part by abrogating conclusions drawn from several recent unanimous decisions by the Supreme Court. 

 

We fear that the consequent changes in eligibility would substantially increase the numbers and kinds of U.S. patents, producing an unintended, detrimental effect on the conduct of basic scientific research.   These changes are likely to undermine a remarkably successful tradition in which discovery of the fundamental features of nature proceeds in a generally open fashion, with little or no intellectual property protection, allowing inventors to take full advantage of discoveries about the natural world in order to make products that contribute to our nation’s economic growth and well-being.

 

The signatories to this letter include biomedical scientists who have advanced our understanding of basic life processes, largely through federally supported work in the academic or not-for-profit sector; others who have developed therapeutics, diagnostics, and other medical products in commercial settings; and many who have worked in both sectors, as indicated by the listed affiliations.  We all endorse the importance of providing patent protection for inventions of many kinds, not just those in the biomedical arena, that conform to historical standards for eligibility; and we accept the idea that those standards need periodic review.   But we fear that any legislation, like the current proposal, that appears to allow the patenting of natural materials (like genes), natural processes, and even untested ideas, may hamstring basic science and slow discovery, thereby compromising the nation’s ability to enhance the quality of health care and foster economic progress.  

 

In situations that bring the interests of different groups into conflict about the conduct of science, it has often proven useful for Congress to ask the government’s long-standing advisor on science policy, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), to study the matter and to make recommendations.   A recent review of its published work shows that the issues raised by the proposed legislation have not been previously examined by the NAS.   

 

We strongly urge Congress to direct the NAS to perform a thorough study of the nation’s requirements for patent eligibility and of the draft proposal’s potential consequences for our country’s science and industry, before enacting any relevant legislation.

 

David Baltimore, Ph.D. +*

Professor of Biology, California Institute of Technology

Retired Member, Board of Directors of Amgen, Inc. 

 

Harold Varmus, M.D. +*

Professor of Medicine, Weill Cornell Medicine

Board of Directors, Surrozen Inc.

 

Rafi Ahmed, Ph.D.

Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, Emory University

 

Bruce Alberts, Ph.D. *

Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry and Biophysics, UCSF

 

Frederick W. Alt, Ph.D.

Professor of Pediatrics and Genetics, Harvard Medical School

 

Victor Ambros, Ph.D.

Professor of Molecular Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School

 

Angelika Amon, Ph.D.

Professor of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

 

David J. Anderson, Ph.D.

Professor of Biology, California Institute of Technology

 

Nancy Andrews, M.D., Ph.D.

Professor of Pediatrics, Duke University

Board of Directors, Novartis

 

Richard Axel, M.D. +

Professor, Columbia University

 

John D. Baldeschwieler, Ph.D. *

Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, California Institute of Technology

 

Cori Bargmann, Ph.D.

Professor, The Rockefeller University

 

Jacqueline K. Barton. Ph.D. *

Professor of Chemistry, California Institute of Technology

Board of Directors, Dow Inc.

 

Jeremy Berg, Ph.D.

Editor-in-Chief Science, AAAS

 

Paul Berg, Ph.D. +*

Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry, Stanford University School of Medicine

Retired Member, Board of Directors, Gilead Sciences, Inc.

 

Robert J. Birgeneau, Ph.D.

Chancellor Emeritus, University of California, Berkeley

 

J. Michael Bishop, Ph.D. +*

Chancellor Emeritus, University of California, San Francisco

Retired Member, Scientific Advisory Board, Mitotix

 

Jeffrey Bluestone, Ph.D.

Professor of Metabolism and Endocrinology, UCSF

 

Donald Brown, M.D.

Former Director, Carnegie Institution for Science

 

Michael S. Brown, M.D. +*

Professor of Molecular Genetics, UT Southwestern Medical Center

 

Patrick Brown, M.D., Ph.D.

Professor Emeritus, Stanford University School of Medicine

CEO and Founder, Impossible Foods

 

Joan S. Brugge, Ph.D.

Professor of Cell Biology, Harvard Medical School

 

Albert Carnesale, Ph.D.

Chancellor Emeritus, University of California, Los Angeles

 

Howard Chang, M.D., Ph.D.

Professor of Cancer Genomics, Stanford University School of Medicine

Co-founder, Accent Therapeutics and Epinomics

 

James E. Darnell, M.D. *

Professor Emeritus of Molecular Cell Biology, Rockefeller University

 

Mark E. Davis, Ph.D.

Professor of Chemical Engineering, California Institute of Technology

 

Titia de Lange, Ph.D.

Professor of Cell Biology and Genetics, The Rockefeller University

Retired Member, Board of Directors, Nestle, S.A.

 

Peter B. Dervan, Ph.D. *

Professor of Chemistry, California Institute of Technology

Retired Member, Board of Directors, Beckman Coulter Inc.

 

David S. Eisenberg, D. Phil.

Professor of Biological Chemistry, University of California, Los Angeles

 

Charles Elachi, Ph.D.

Professor Emeritus, Electrical Engineering and Planetary Science, Caltech

Former Director, Jet Propulsion Lab

 

Ronald M. Evans, Ph.D.

Professor, Gene Expression Laboratory, Salk Institute for Biological Studies

 

Gerald R. Fink, Ph.D.

Professor of Genetics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Founder, Boragen and Ironwood Pharmaceuticals

 

Don Ganem, M.D.

Professor Emeritus of Medicine and Microbiology, UCSF

Vice President and Global Head of Infectious Diseases Research, Novartis

 

K. Christopher Garcia, Ph.D.

Professor of Molecular and Cellular Physiology, Stanford University School of Medicine

 

David Goeddel, Ph.D.

Managing Partner, The Column Group

Board of Directors, NGM Biopharmaceuticals, Exonics Inc.

 

Stephen P. Goff, Ph.D.

Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, Columbia University

 

Joseph L. Goldstein, M.D. +*

Professor of Molecular Genetics, UT Southwestern Medical Center

 

Zach W.Hall, Ph.D.

Professor Emeritus, UCSF

Board of Directors, Nitrome Biosciences, Inc.

 

Stephen C. Harrison, Ph.D.

Professor of Basic Biomedical Sciences, Harvard Medical School

 

David Haussler, Ph.D.

Professor of Biomolecular Engineering, University of California, Santa Cruz

 

James R. Heath, Ph.D.

President, Institute for Systems Biology

 

David Hirsh, Ph.D.

Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, Columbia University

Board of Directors, Cellphire, Inc.

 

Lee Hood, M.D., Ph.D.*

Professor, Institute for Systems Biology

 

Richard Hynes, Ph.D.

Professor of Cancer Research, M.I.T.

Member, Scientific Resource Board, Amgen and Genentech

 

Tyler Jacks

Director, Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, M.I.T.

 

Rudolf Jaenisch, M.D. *

Professor of Biology, M.I.T

 

Thomas J. Kelly, M.D., Ph.D.

Chair of Cancer Research, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

 

Judith Kimble, Ph.D.

Professor of Biochemistry, University of Wisconsin-Madison

 

Mark Kirschner, Ph.D.

Professor of Systems Biology, Harvard Medical School

 

John Kuriyan, Ph.D.

Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California, Berkeley

Co-founder, Nurix Therapeutics Inc.

 

Eric Lander, Ph.D.

President, Broad Institute of M.I.T and Harvard

 

Story Landis, Ph.D.

Former Director, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

 

Robert J. Lefkowitz, M.D. +*

Professor of Medicine, Duke University Medical Center

Board of Directors, Lexicon Pharmaceuticals

 

Michael Lenardo, M.D.

Adjunct Professor of Pathology, University of Pennsylvania

 

Richard P. Lifton, M.D., Ph.D.

President, The Rockefeller University

Board of Directors, Roche and Genentech

 

Dan R. Littman, M.D., Ph.D.

Professor of Molecular Immunology, New York University School of Medicine

 

Harvey Lodish, Ph.D.

Professor of Biological Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Founder, Genzyme, Millennium and Rubius Pharmaceutical Cos.

 

Tom Maniatis, Ph.D.

Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, Columbia University

Scientific Director and CEO, New York Genome Center

 

Diane J. Mathis, Ph.D.

Professor of Immunology, Harvard Medical School

 

Stephen Mayo, Ph.D.

Professor of Biology and Chemistry, California Institute of Technology

Co-founder, Xencor, Inc.

 

Frank McCormick, Ph.D.

Professor of Tumor Biology and Cancer Research, UCSF

Co-Founder, BridgeBio Pharma, Inc.

 

Elliot M. Meyerowitz, Ph.D.

Professor of Biology, California Institute of Technology

 

David G. Nathan, M.D.

President Emeritus, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Professor of Pediatrics and of Medicine, Harvard Medical School

 

Dianne K. Newman, Ph.D.

Professor of Biology & Geobiology, California Institute of Technology

 

Elizabeth G. Nabel, M.D.

President, Brigham Health

 

Garry P. Nolan, Ph.D.

Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, Stanford University School of Medicine

 

Michael Nussenzweig, M.D., Ph.D.

Professor of Molecular Immunology, The Rockefeller University

 

Erin O’Shea, Ph.D.

President, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

 

David C. Page, M.D.

Director, Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research

Board of Directors, PepsiCo.

 

Edward E. Penhoet, Ph.D.

Dean Emeritus of the University California, Berkeley School of Public Health

Co-founder and CEO of Chiron Corporation (retired)

 

Charles L Sawyers, M.D.

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

Board of Directors, Novartis

 

Lucy Shapiro, Ph.D. *

Professor of Developmental Biology, Stanford University School of Medicine

Board of Directors, Pacific Biosciences, Inc.

 

Maxine Singer, Ph.D. *

President Emerita, Carnegie Institution for Science

Retired member, Board of Directors, Johnson & Johnson

 

Joan Steitz, Ph.D.

Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, Yale University

 

Bruce Stillman, Ph.D.

President and CEO, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

 

Jack W. Szostak, Ph.D. +

Professor of Genetics, Harvard Medical School

Co-Founder,Ra Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

 

Shirley M. Tilghman, Ph.D.

President Emerita, Princeton University

 

Ronald Vale, Ph.D.

Professor, University of California San Francisco

Co-Founder, Cytokinetics Inc.

 

Irving L. Weissman, M.D.

Director, Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, Stanford University

Cofounder, Cellerant Inc., Forty Seven Inc., Stem Cells Inc. SyStemix Inc.

 

Owen Witte, M.D.

Professor, University of California, Los Angeles

 

Barbara J. Wold, Ph.D.

Professor of Molecular Biology, California Institute of Technology

 

Keith R. Yamamoto, Ph.D.

Professor of Cellular & Molecular Pharmacology, UCSF

Retired member, Amgen Scientific Advisory Board

 

Elias Zerhouni, M.D.

Professor Emeritus, Johns Hopkins University

Former Director, National Institutes of Health

Former President, Global Research & Development, Sanofi

 

+ Nobel Prize

* National Medal of Science