Jeffrey Rosenfeld heard all the gloom-and-doom predictions for the biotech industry in New Jersey following the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling on genetic research earlier this month.
And then he pulled out his phone and realized it may not be so bad after all.
Rosenfeld, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, said the ruling banning the patenting of naturally occurring genes will open up — not shut down — research in the field.
“This is going to spur innovation,” Rosenfeld said. “It will be better for labs. It will be better for startups. They are not going to have to worry that the genes they are working on are going to be patented and their research is going to be shut down.”
Which brings in the phone analogy.
“When you have competition, it leads to innovation,” Rosenfeld said. “If we didn’t have Samsung, we’d still have iPhone 1.”
Don’t be confused: The ruling will bring some hurt to the industry, one already struggling to get the necessary funding it needs to make these discoveries in the first place.
As for the ruling, Gerald Norton, a Princeton attorney who represents biotech and pharmaceutical companies in New Jersey, said the decision is a setback. But he notes that only about 12 percent of biotech research is devoted to naturally occurring gene sequences, the part which the Supreme Court declared cannot be patented.
“If I take a 12 percent salary reduction, yes that’s significant,” said Norton, who heads the intellectual property department at Fox Rothschild LLP. “But I’d still be able to feed my family. Companies have other arrows in the quiver. The biotech industry is still kicking and alive.”
The industry is critical to the economy of New Jersey, home to some 350 biotech companies.
BioNJ, the state’s trade group for the biotech industry, said companies are still sorting the impact of the decision and some may need to review their intellectually property portfolios. But the organization does not expect damage to established companies working on drugs and human medicine.