Blog archive for November, 2006

A Synthetic Biology Commons?

November 13th, 2006 by Kaitlin Thaney

The first major legal analysis of the intellectual property implications of synthetic biology is now available on MIT DSpace. Written by Arti Rai and James Boyle, both Professors of Law at Duke University Law School, the article explores the possibility and actuality of a “synthetic biology commons.”

Synthetic biology, also known as biological engineering, is an emerging field that fuses traditional genetic approaches from biological sciences with the engineering mantra of standard “parts”. Using this approach, powerful new technologies are emerging – for example, a team of undergraduates from Slovenia recently won an international competition by designing an approach to sepsis, and a team from Edinburgh placed second with a programmed bacterium that would be able to detect arsenic levels in rural Bangladeshi wells. Both teams used an open database hosted at MIT called the Registry of Standard Biological Parts – open to all.

Rai and Boyle’s article discusses the relationship of synthetic biology to intellectual property law. They discuss MIT’S Open Access Registry as a mechanism that scientists are using to address concerns about intellectual property rights over parts. Rai and Boyle also discuss the possibility that the Registry might create a model for a “commons” in the field.

The final version of the article is set to be published in “PLoS Biology”, a “peer-reviewed, open-access journal published by the Public Library of Science (PLoS), a non-profit organization committed to making scientific and medical literature a public resource,” as stated on their Web site.

Rai is also a member of the Science Commons Scientific Advisory Board, and Boyle, a founder of Science Commons and member of the Creative Commons Board of Directors.

To view the article in its entirety, click here.

Commons of Science Conference audio now up

November 8th, 2006 by Kaitlin Thaney

Presentation audio and accompanying slides from the Commons of Science Conference are now available on the site’s program page.

The two-day, invitation-only event, hosted by the
National Academies of Science (Washington, DC), ran from October 3-4, 2006.

The event brought together over 45 scientists, policy makers and other commons advocates to help “create a vision for making scientific data accessible across the disciplines,” as the event’s full title reveals. The lines of communications across various disciplines were successfully opened, as the diverse cast of characters from around the world assembled to discuss the obstacles, successes and future of moving towards a more open science model.

For more information on the conference, visit the event’s
Web site or read the post-Conference wrap up here on the
iCommons site.

Worth mentioning …

November 2nd, 2006 by Kaitlin Thaney

In a recent interview on Bio-IT World, David de Graaf, first director of systems biology for Pfizer, gave a shout-out to us here at Science Commons, including us in the list of folks Pfizer is currently working with to explore ways to circumvent roadblocks to their systems biology work.

Speaking to John Russell, editor of Bio-IT World and SBNL, de Graaf said:

“Everybody keeps running into the same toxicity and we can’t solve it. Actually putting our heads together and, more importantly, putting our data together may be something that’s worthwhile, and we’re exploring that together with the folks at Science Commons right now, as well as the folks at

Outside of working with Teranode and the Science Commons team, de Graaf told Russell he is also working with the head of computational systems biology at Novartis, the director of pathways capability at AstraZeneca, as well as other contacts at Biogen Idec and Numerica Technologies.

Earlier in the interview, de Graaf spoke about current models generated at Pfizer’s Research Technology Center (RTC) both internally, and also with the help of Teranode. His comment about this collaboration is promising.

“One of the interesting things that happened with Teranode is we’re starting to see aspects of knowledge management around these larger systems biology projects, and together with Teranode, we’re pushing the envelope there in terms of what we can do. So we’re thinking about common shared spaces for data that can be accessed within Pfizer or by partners external to Pfizer, or even by competitors, with appropriate restrictions.”

To read the entire interview, click here .