Linda KahlView all speakers
Linda Kahl is a legal scholar at Stanford University, where she leads the Ownership, Sharing, Access, and Innovation Systems (OASIS) project for SynBERC, a multi-university NSF Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center. Originally trained as a research scientist, Linda received her Ph.D. in biochemistry and cell biology from Princeton University, and worked as an independent consultant for numerous biotechnology companies, pharmaceutical companies, and research institutes in the areas of molecular diagnostics, infectious diseases, cancer research, biomarker discovery, genomics, and medical economics.
Linda’s interests led her to study intellectual property law and she received her J.D., magna cum laude, from Santa Clara University. She has been admitted to law practice in California and before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Her current research focuses on how intellectual property rights might be adapted and applied to best support innovation in synthetic biology and biotechnology, more broadly.
Realizing constructive applications of synthetic biology requires the continued development of enabling technologies as well as policies and practices to ensure these technologies remain accessible for research and commercial development. Because the field of synthetic biology spans a wide range of disciplines – from engineering and biology to mathematics and computer science – the technologies considered “enabling” by synthetic biology researchers are expected to cover a broad range. We surveyed a community of self-identified practitioners engaged in synthetic biology research in order to obtain their opinions and experiences with technologies that support the engineering of biological systems. The results of our survey show the technologies enabling synthetic biology research are evolving, with shifts in the use of physical assembly methods and software tools, widespread use of public registries, and early adoption of functional composition and data exchange standards. Many technologies are widely accessible, at least for research use, either by virtue of being in the public domain or through legal tools such as non-exclusive licensing. However, broad access to technologies for commercial purposes presents more of a challenge. Because useful applications of synthetic biology may embody multiple patented inventions, it will be important to create structures for managing property rights that will promote access to the foundational technologies needed for commercial development of synthetic biology products and services. Moreover, because synthetic biology research and development is conducted across multiple institutions in many countries, it will be important to adopt policies and practices that promote cross-institutional and transnational exchange of ideas, data, and technology. By monitoring the enabling technologies of synthetic biology and addressing the property rights, licensing practices, and regulatory policies covering those technologies, our hope is that the field will be better able to reach its full potential to promote human health and preserve the environment.