Innogen · Research · Current projects
Intellectual Property in the New Life Sciences

Jane Calvert

Funding: ESRC Innogen Centre

Started: January 1 2002


This work is driven by an interest in how intellectual property rights interact with the changing objects of the biological sciences, or, to put it more broadly, with the relationship between the regulatory and the epistemic.

The kinds of questions that are being addressed are: what sorts of biological objects can be patented? And, if our understanding of the object of investigation changes, what implications does this have for patenting? For example, collaborative ownership regimes may be more practical than patents in the context of interacting and dynamic biological systems that we find in systems biology.

This project will look at the implications of the move away from reductionism and the shift from the appropriation of the tangible/material to the appropriation of the intangible/informational. It will also examine the implications for intellectual property of the increasingly interdisciplinary and collaborative work environment of the emerging life sciences. It will examine both the impact of intellectual property on scientific research, and of scientific research on intellectual property regimes.

Aims and objectives

  • What implications do changing ideas about the objects of ownership in the emerging life sciences have for existing intellectual property regimes?
  • How should intellectual property regimes be organised in the context of new kinds of objects of study in the biosciences?

Research methods

Primarily desk-based work, drawing on the empirical material gathered from the projects on systems biology, synthetic biology and translational research.


Calvert, J. (2004) 'Genomic patenting and the utility requirement' New Genetics and Society, 23 (3): 301-312

O’Malley, M. A., Bostanci, A. and Calvert, J. (2005) 'Whole genome patenting' Nature Reviews Genetics, 6 (6): 502-506

Calvert, J. (2007) 'Patenting genomic objects: genes, genomes, function and information' Science as Culture, 16 (2): 207-223.

Bostanci, A and Calvert, J (2008) ‘Invisible genomes: the genomics revolution and patenting practice’ Studies in the History and Philosophy of the Biological and Biomedical Sciences 39: 109-119

Calvert, J (2008) ‘The commodification of emergence: systems biology, synthetic biology and intellectual property’ BioSocieties 3(4): 385-400