Archive for the ‘Associations’ Category
If you’ll be at the BIO International Convention next week, let’s get together. Send me a note via the Contact Us window in the lefthand column of this page, or leave a voicemail at 610-328-0580.
While at BIO, you should pick up the latest copy of Biotechnology Law Report—the journal I founded in 1982 with publisher Mary Ann Liebert. We’re up to the third issue of volume 30 … still going strong. Get it at Exhibit Booth 4213, in the Clinical Trials section of Hall C, where you’ll also see their flagship trade paper GEN, Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News.
My latest article in GEN urges Congress to fund a transformation of the information infrastructure for examining U.S. patent applications. It follows up on an editorial I published in Biotechnology Law Report back in 2007, which happens to have been cited in the Wikipedia entry on latent semantic analysis.
Then be sure to flip over your June 2011 issue of BLR, because the back cover features a spectacular illustration that I commissioned from Philadelphia artist Tim Durning. It depicts a dream where I am fancifully transported into a science fiction story written by Damon Knight in 1953 (coincidentally, the year Watson & Crick sussed out the DNA double helix).
And while in Washington, stay tuned for the latest developments on patent law in Congress. The U.S. House of Representatives is imminently expected to consider H.R. 1249, the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act. Many of us had high hopes that the Bill would end the practice of diverting fees collected from users of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to other governmental use, in accordance with the expectation of the patent community in 1999 when the U.S. PTO was declared a PBO. As chair of the Legislative Committee of the Philadelphia Intellectual Property Law Association, I recently prepared for PIPLA’s Board of Governors a resolution they recently sent to Congress, urging full funding of the PTO.
Since 2001, Gerry Elman has been a founding member of the World Technology Network (the “WTN”). Annually since then, the WTN has produced a summit conference and awards gala, the World Technology Summit and Awards, at venues ranging from London, to San Francisco, to New York City.
On December 1, the roundtable on IMAGINED WORLDS / PLAUSIBLE FUTURES: How Sci-Fi Legends Dream for Us, featured
- Paul Levinson, Author; Former President of Science Fiction Writers of America; and Professor of Communication and Media Studies at Fordham University
- Stanley Schmidt, Author; Editor of Analog Science Fiction & Fact magazine
- David Hartwell, Three-time Winner of the Hugo Award; Administrator of the Philip K. Dick Award
It was moderated by Dr. Moira Gunn, Host of Tech Nation and BioTech Nation on National Public Radio’s 24-hour program stream. [Click here to watch a short video clip from the event] [Click here for a video on FORA.tv of the full roundtable, payment required]
Said Gerry Elman,
“I am delighted that WTN founder Jim Clark acted on my suggestion to include such a roundtable in this year’s Summit, and that Elman Technology Law has been afforded the opportunity to sponsor this event. It is exciting to acknowledge that many of the technological advances we are living with were first envisioned by authors writing in the genre of science fiction. By reading science fiction, we stretch our minds towards a vision of the future that we, as technologists, then help to engender.”
Indeed, at a previous World Technology Summit, science fiction legend Sir Arthur C. Clarke was interviewed via a satellite link from his home in Sri Lanka, fitting–in that he had first proposed satellite communications in 1945.
Gerry asserts that an unsung prophet of biotechnology is Damon Knight, who in 1953 wrote a story called Natural State in which rural agricultural biotechnologists (the “muckfeet”) are at war against city folk whose lives are based on electromechanical technology. In the story, the muckfeet communicate via genetically engineered vines with a nervous system that provides telephony, and transport themselves via genetically engineered big birds. They win the war with the urbanites by splicing genes into a microbe to get it to gobble up copper, thereby destroying the technological infrastructure by which the city people communicate.
Gerry notes that, at the same time that James Watson and Francis Crick were sussing out the double-helix structure of DNA, Damon Knight conceived for that story the concept of splicing genes to create a biological chimera. Later, Stanley Cohen and Herbert Boyer were to develop a tool to realize that dream, the technique of recombinant DNA, that was patented due to the watchful eye of patent attorney Bertram Rowland (whose recent passing we sadly note), working with Niels Reimers of the Stanford University technology transfer office. Gerry observes wryly that Damon Knight’s story was not among the “prior art” cited during the prosecution of the Cohen-Boyer patents.
Damon Knight went on to found an organization of authors then called Science Fiction Writers of America (“SWFA”) and now known as Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. More recently, Roundtable panelist Paul Levinson served as president of SWFA. Coincidentally many scenes of Levinson’s sci-fi novels are set in midtown Manhattan, close to the venue of the Summit conference.
Gerry observes that the war between biotechnologists and information technologists envisioned by Damon Knight in Natural State has an eerily familiar echo in the present debate over “patent reform.” Many major information technology companies have been lobbying Congress to defang U.S. patent law, while most biotechnology companies are striving to resist such a statutory change. For further information on this, subscribe to Elman’s Patent Reform News by sending Gerry an email addressed to email@example.com, and visit the website of American Innovators for Patent Reform.
As to the vulnerability of our technological infrastructure highlighted by Knight’s story, Gerry urges us also to heed the cautionary message in Richard Clarke’s recent book Cyber War.
This is an American Intellectual Property Law Ass’n (AIPLA) Action Alert: Help Confirm David Kappos as Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
“As an IP professional, you know that we need consistent and stable leadership at the USPTO. The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to consider the nomination tomorrow and the entire U.S. Senate will hopefully be voting on David Kappos’ nomination as the next USPTO Director this week, but they may not. We’re reaching out to you to contact your Senator to urge the Senate to vote THIS WEEK on the nomination before they recess for the summer.
On July 16th Lois and I got dressed up for the World Technology Awards. As a member of the World Technology Network, I’ve had the honor of participating in the nomination process for awards in the law category since 2001 and of attending these festivities.
This year we were joined by M.P. Moon, a patent attorney colleague of mine at Elman Technology Law, P.C.
I chanced to seat myself next to Kevin Wang, founder and chief scientific officer of Banyan Biomarkers, Inc. The company, located in Gainesville, Florida, is developing tests for various kinds of brain injury. I invited him on returning home to convey my greetings to certain research faculty at the University of Florida, Gregory Schultz and Christopher Batich, who are sparkplugs for some of the technology being developed by our client Quick-Med Technologies, Inc.
Next to him was an attractive woman from Stanford University. When I disclosed that Lois and I are webmasters for the Stanford alumni club in Philadelphia, she favored us with a charming Cheshire-cat smile. She said she works in bioengineering and has contact with Stanford Medical Center researchers. I asked if she happened to know my cousin Kay Ptashne, who used to work there. Christina said, no, she didn’t think they had crossed paths. Flashing that smile again, she added that she recognized the name of Mark Ptashne, whom I acknowledged is Kay’s brother.
To my chagrin, I hadn’t yet encountered reports of her work, and Christina looked somewhat younger than my daughter, so I asked if she was, maybe, a grad student. She replied that she’s been on faculty for five years. And, hearing that she was one of the nominees that night, it seemed to me that she was pretty young to be nominated for one of these World Technology Awards.
Now imagine you’re at the Oscars, men in tuxedos, women in evening dress — but in this version the category isn’t “best picture” or “best actor” but rather “individual achievement expected to have lasting impact in their field of enveavor” such as biotechnology, design, information technology, law, or another of the twenty categories for individual nominees and ten categories for corporations.
On the stage from which just six hours previously I had presented my own talk, CNN business anchor Ali Velshi and WTN Chairman James Clark declared ”… and the 2009 World Technology Award for biotechnology goes to … Christina Smolke and Maung Nyan Win.” It seemed to me that Christina hesitated just a moment, maybe not so sure she’d heard correctly, or perhaps composing her thoughts while taking a breath, and then she strode confidently to the stage, picking her way among the closely packed dinner tables in the sold-out room.
Modestly accepting the award, represented by a double-helix ladder-shape embedded within a cuboid of crystal, she gave a brief summary of what their peers regard as groundbreaking work.
This morning I learned more. The current issue of the Stanford Magazine had been delivered to my mailbox at home while we were in New York, and now I was able to sort through a few days’ accumulation of snail mail. The cover of the July/August issue features a fanciful image representing a cross between a mechanical gear train and nucleic acid base-pairs. Its accompanying story is entitled “Do-it-Yourself DNA: Bioengineers are harnessing genetic raw material to create living ‘machines.’ Where might it all lead?” It’s a report on the latest work of Christina Smolke’s team. Wow!
I had the time of my life at the World Technology Summit and Awards in New York City on July 15th and 16th. I guess it had to be that way, because it all took place in the Time & Life Building on 6th Avenue … er “Avenue of the Americas” at 51st Street.