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As Midterm Elections Near Some Voters Will Have to Decide on More Than Who Will Control the State’s Legislature

Posted under Blog, California Measure P, Colorado, Colorado Proposition 105, Companies, Diagnostics, Farmer Gene, Food And Agriculture, Funding, GMO, GMOs, Hawaii, Humboldt County, Humboldt County California, Maui County, Maui County GMO Ban, Medical Devices, Medical Supply, Oregon, Oregon Measure 92, Pharmaceuticals, Startups, Universities, Videos by (Biotechnology Industry Organization) Farmer Gene

As we close in on the “midterm” elections, not only will voters decide which parties will control the states’ legislatures but many will be asked to vote on contentious ballot initiatives. Colorado and Oregon each have statewide ballot initiatives pending that would force food companies to label any products derived from Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). In Maui County, Hawaii (including the islands of Maui, Molokai and Lanai) and in Humboldt County, California, voters will decide whether or not to ban GMO crops. Below outlines reasons why, if passed, these initiatives would be bad for farmers, create further confusion for consumers and place more costs onto families.

Colorado: Proposition 105
The No vote, against the proposition to label GMO derived foods, was endorsed by thousands of individual and groups as well as numerous newspapers. The Denver Post Editorial Board this week came out endorsing the No vote as they deemed Proposition 105 as “badly flawed measure that will hurt Colorado farmers and food producers without providing any health benefit to consumers.” The editorial further explains that “(105) exempts broad categories of food products, from chewing gum to alcoholic beverages, that may include GMO ingredients. Most cheese is made using genetically modified microbes that produce a critical enzyme. But such food is exempt from mandatory labeling in Prop 105. Either GMO labeling is a vital consumer tool or it is not.”

Oregon: Measure 92
The state pulled together a 20 member citizens panel to review the initiative. This independent panel of likely voters representing all parts of the state voted against the measure. The Oregonian newspaper reports that the panel concluded that the costs of labeling are a fraction of the costs of compliance and certification, and also that the measure wouldn’t provide information to consumers about which foods contain GMO ingredients and which do not.

Humboldt County, California: Measure P
The Genetic Contamination Prevention Ordinance would ban the propagation, cultivation, raising, or growing of genetically modified organisms in the entire Humboldt County. The proposal would not, however, prevent the sale of GMO derived foods. If passed, the ordinance would go into effect immediately but allow farmers already using gm technology to end production by January of 2016. There is no organized effort by ag or industry groups to counter the initiative. Humboldt State University biology professor Mark Wilson, who had organized discussion sessions to educate county citizens about the science and safety behind biotechnology stated “What we are being asked to do as a county is to vote against all the scientists and vote for the conspiracy theorists.” Dr. Wilson, in materials prepared for his biology students, annotates the actual ballot language where DNA is defined and states: “DNA is not a protein,” contrary to the definition before voters.

Organic dairy farmer in Humboldt, John Vevoda, was quoted in the Times Standard last week as stating that the passage of Measure P would pit farmers against farmers for no particularly good reason. “I think it really sends a mixed message out there to the consumer who doesn’t have a clue what the difference is.” That is a quote from an organic farmer who has previously used GM seed and now is worried that he can’t do so in the future if the measure passes. He also stated that he will not turn in his neighbors who he knows use GM seed for their corn crops.

Maui County, Hawaii GMO Ban
Residents will decide whether or not to put an immediate moratorium on all genetically modified farming in the county. BIO members Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences both maintain facilities within the county and would be immediately impacted, including 600 jobs and thousands of people who rely on these two employers. State economists have estimated that should the measure pass the county unemployment rate would rise from 4.7 to 5.5 %.

The question itself before voters, other than being potentially devastating, is also very confusing: “Maui: Voter Initiative: Genetically Engineered Organisms. Should the proposed initiative prohibiting the cultivation or reproduction of genetically engineered organisms within the County of Maui, which may be amended or repealed as to a specific person or entity when required environmental and public health impact studies, public hearings, a two thirds vote and a determination by the County Council that such operation or practice meets certain standards, and which established civil and criminal penalties, be adopted for Maui County?” Huh?


BIO Members Receive 2014 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award

Posted under Algae oils, Amyris, Blog, Companies, Diagnostics, Environmental & Industrial, Farnesene, Funding, Medical Devices, Medical Supply, Pharmaceuticals, Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge, Solazyme, Startups, Universities, Videos by (Biotechnology Industry Organization)

Today, BIO announced that two of its member companies, Amyris and Solazyme, Inc., have received awards in the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge for industrial biotechnology applications that produce farnesene and algae oils.

Green Chemistry or sustainable chemistry aims to design and produce cost-competitive chemical products and processes that reduce pollution at the source.  Specifically, it minimizes or eliminates the hazards of chemical feedstocks, reagents, solvents, and products.   The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognizes that industrial biotechnology meets these criteria of green chemistry.

The annual Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards recognize novel technologies that provide significant environmental and economic benefits through chemical design, manufacture, and use.

EPA presents awards in five categories:

  • Focus Area 1: Greener Synthetic Pathways
  • Focus Area 2: Greener Reaction Conditions
  • Focus Area 3: The Design of Greener Chemicals
  • Small Business* (for a technology in any of the three focus areas developed by a small business)
  • Academic (for a technology in any of the three focus areas developed by an academic researcherss

Amyris received the Small Business Award for its design of farnesene, a hydrocarbon building block that can be converted into a renewable, drop-in diesel or jet fuel.  Amyris engineered yeast to make the chemical called farnesene instead of ethanol. Farnesene is a building block hydrocarbon that can be converted into a renewable, drop-in replacement for petroleum diesel without certain drawbacks of first-generation biofuels.

Solazyme received the Greener Synthetic Pathways Award for oils produced through microalgae fermentation. These oils can be tailored to replace or improve upon traditional vegetable oils and petrochemicals.Vegetable oils derived from plants can replace petroleum as building blocks for many industrial chemicals. Solazyme has engineered microalgae to produce oils tailored to customers’ needs that can mimic or enhance properties of traditional vegetable oils These micro-algae-derived oils are consistent regardless of season, geographic origin, and feedstock source.

Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards have been issued by the Environmental Protection Agency each year since 1996. Of the 98 annual awards given, 33 have been given to biotechnology and biobased applications. For more information, click here.


Merck and Roche prep breast cancer data for promising PD-1 drugs

Posted under Blog, Companies, Diagnostics, Funding, Medical Devices, Medical Supply, Merck, Pharmaceuticals, R&D, Roche, Startups, Universities, Videos by Emily Mullin

As fervor surrounding a new class of cancer drugs builds, drug giants Merck and Roche are set to roll out new data for their opposing immunotherapy drugs for breast cancer by the end of the year.


Patent Cases Down by 40% in 2014

Posted under Akamai, Akamai v. Limelight, Alice, Alice v. CLS Bank, Biotech Patent, Blog, Companies, Dennis Crouch, Diagnostics, federal patent applications, Funding, ineligible claim, Intellectual Property, Lex Machina, Medical Devices, Medical Supply, Nautilus, Nautilus v. Biosig Instruments, Octane, Octane Fitness v. Icon Health, patent, patent cases, patent eligibility, patent filings, patent litigation, Patently BIOtech, Patents in the Supreme Court, Pharmaceuticals, Public Policy, SCOTUS, Startups, Supreme Court, U.S. Supreme Court, Universities, Videos by (Biotechnology Industry Organization) Patently BIOtech

The number of new patent cases filed in federal court has dropped by an astonishing 40 percent as compared to this time last year. This trend has some questioning whether Congressional patent reform is even necessary.

Some legal experts are attributing this drop to the fallout from the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent Alice vs. CLS Bank decision.

In June, SCOTUS ruled in the case of Alice that certain subject matter which had been patentable (a computer-implemented business method), must now be considered invalid because it was too broadly based on “abstract ideas.”  Since then, similar patents have been struck down in quick succession in the lower courts.

According to patent scholar Dennis Crouch, the Alice decision is just one in a series of recent SCOTUS decisions that have caused hundreds of thousands of issued patents to become invalid. This lack of confidence may now be starting to show up in patent lawsuit statistics.

According to a report done by Lex Machina, in September 2014 there were 329 new federal patent cases, a 40 percent decrease from the 549 cases filed in September 2013:

Patent Case Filings by Month 2011-2014

Looking at the figures above, there appears to be a strong correlation between the drop in patent case filings and the Alice decision. Yet this is by no means definitive. Given the short period of time since the case, the amount of data available does not yet prove a statistically significant trend.

Additionally, there are other factors working in favor of accused patent infringers. In Nautilus v. Biosig Instruments the Court tightened restrictions on patent applicants by narrowing the scope of inventions being claimed. In Octane Fitness v. Icon Health, the Court made it easier for courts to make the loser pay for all attorney costs.  And in Akamai v. Limelight, the Court made it much harder to sue e-commerce companies for infringing patented processes involving electronic transactions between multiple parties.

What is certain is that patent litigation is dropping. Patent experts believe that investors are growing more cautious about financing patent litigation. The risk of losing based on an ineligible claim, and spending a significant amount doing so, has gotten substantially higher.

Patent holders will have to carefully evaluate how to proceed and if the cost of going to trial is worth the risk of losing a patent battle in a post-Alice courtroom.