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4 July 2018Americas

LSIPR 50 2018: It’s not like selling cars

Managing and licensing the IP portfolio of a biomedical research centre as prestigious as the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard may come with any number of challenges, but for Issi Rozen there is one key question he tackles in his day-to-day work as chief business officer: how can the Broad’s proprietary technology have the maximum impact possible, in a responsible way?

“Our mission is to propel the understanding of the human genome and how we understand human health and disease,” he says, explaining that when the Broad issues a licence it has to be sure that its use will support that mission.

Rozen previously worked in the biotech industry, including in startups such as venture-backed Resolvyx Pharmaceuticals, where he led the business development and partnering efforts.

“Most of the time the mission was to maximise profit, but it turns out it’s much more complex to maximise impact,” Rozen says. Maximising profit is “easy, if the numbers are right”, but there are lots of different frameworks to consider and balance when trying to maximise impact.

For example, considering whether a right should be exclusive, who could be the best party to develop something, and how the relevant data will be made available as soon as possible are just some of the elements the Broad has to assess when working out how its research tools can have the biggest impact.

CRISPR responsibility

The Broad is renowned for its proprietary CRISPR technology, which allows researchers to alter DNA sequences and modify gene function. The potential of the tool is huge: it can accelerate life sciences research, improve biotechnology, and treat human diseases.

But when licensing the technology, the Broad is conscious of the fact that it could have potentially negative uses.

The institute doesn’t grant CRISPR licences for germline DNA editing, for example, and licences relating to agricultural applications of the technology do not permit purposes relating to tobacco or sterile seeds.

“We place restrictions on certain licences to make sure our technology is used in a socially responsible way,” he explains.

An equally important consideration relating to the Broad’s social responsibility centres on whether licences should be exclusive. Rozen explains that the institute has many policies around this, including the inclusive innovation model.

Under this model, CRISPR/Cas9 technology was licensed to primary licensee Editas Medicine. Editas had the right to exclusively use the technology on targets of its choosing for the development of genomic medicines.

When that period of exclusivity expired, other parties applied to license the technology for use against genes of interest which are not being pursued by Editas.

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