Placeholder Banner

This Independence Day, Let’s Thank the Inventors

July 1, 2015
Happy Birthday AMERICA!

That’s right, this Saturday is July 4. And yes, that means what you think it means.

Prepare yourself for Facebook posts of your old college roommate in an American flag t-shirt, Instagrams from your sister who makes the world’s GREATEST potato salad and texts from your cousin about prime firework viewing in D.C.

(Hint: Avoid the crowds and head to the Marine Corps War Memorial and Netherlands Carillion in Rosslyn - you can see the show on the National Mall from there!)

Summer’s that time when everything slows down, and we all take a little time to appreciate life’s little pleasures. This Independence Day, let’s also take a moment to appreciate the amazing biotech innovations and inventors who are constantly improving our health and happiness worldwide.

1776 Wasn’t the Only Revolution

On an average, dreary London day in 1928, Dr. Alexander Fleming returned from a two-week vacation to find his normally messy lab had a new guest - mold had grown on a contaminated staphylococcus culture plate. Upon examination, Fleming noticed that the mold had prevented the normal growth of the staphylococci.

Eventually, this little discovery had a name - penicillin.

[caption id="attachment_19725" align="alignright" width="185"]Alexander Fleming Alexander Fleming
Credit: Wikipedia[/caption]

As he wrote years later:

“When I woke up just after dawn on September 28, 1928, I certainly didn’t plan to revolutionize all medicine by discovering the world’s first antibiotic, or bacteria killer. But I guess that was exactly what I did.”

Dr. Fleming’s discovery of penicillin wasn’t the first, or even the hundredth development in biotechnology, but it was revolutionary.

“If you build it…”

From Watson & Crick’s structural model of DNA to Kary Mullis’ development of the polymerase chain reaction (and our own BioGENEiuses!) history has given us countless people who have devoted their time, energy, and money to mind blowing discoveries.

To achieve these kinds of amazing results, biotechnological innovation requires large scale research and investment. Patents protect inventors from losing their rights to their own invention, and provide investors with the security to continue investing in life changing technologies.

Recent changes to the patent system have put inventors and investors on edge. From a series of Supreme Court decisions implementing new criteria for subject matter eligibility, to new legislative reform efforts being pushed through Congress, innovators are wary that their inventions are in jeopardy. And while patent abuse litigation is an ongoing threat, there has to be an appropriate balance between interests in enforcing patent rights and halting infringement.

Already, we’ve seen that a weak patent environment is bad for innovation, and for the economy.

American Flag

So Saturday, when you’re chomping down on Dad’s BBQ or enjoying a craft beer (ah, fermentation, one of the oldest biotechnological processes!) raise a glass to those masters of ingenuity. And let’s keep working for them, so they can keep working for the world.