SMU Science and Technology Law Review


There has long been a debate centered around genomic and biomedical data patenting. The opposition expresses concern that the patenting of genomic and biomedical data will hinder the manufacturing and distribution of medical and scientific discoveries to those who need them. On the other hand, supporters of patenting genomic and biomedical data explain that patents are beneficial. For example, genomic and biomedical patents allow pharmaceutical companies and research labs to recoup their massive investments in researching and developing new medical and scientific methodologies and technologies. Patents also incentivize these companies to make discoveries to prevent future pandemics and diseases.

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic broke out and left the world struggling to create more effective vaccines to combat the virus and its variants. At the center of this battle against the virus, various pharmaceutical companies, such as Pfizer, Moderna, BioNTech, and Arcturus, have been working endlessly to develop possible vaccine candidates for the COVID-19 vaccine. The question of whether these pharmaceutical companies will be allowed the protections afforded by genomic and biomedical patenting to spur more advances in the fields of science and medicine to combat new viruses has come to the forefront once again.

With two landmark Supreme Court cases that discuss the patenting of biomedical data and genomic processes, the U.S. Supreme Court has barred the patenting of isolated DNA and naturally occurring processes. However, amid a global pandemic, there are benefits to patenting biomedical data. The U.S. Patent Regime should allow genomic and biomedical data patenting to encourage innovation and incentivize researchers and scientists by taking measures to broaden the scope of patent-protected subject matters and by adopting aspects of foreign patent regimes, such as Japan’s patent regime, to expand the treatment of patent protection and encourage innovation in biotechnology and medicine.



Digital Object Identifier (DOI)