Team:IngenuityLab Canada/Practices

Ingenuity Lab - dNANO


Human Practices 2016

Innovation in Disruptive Technologies

DNA origami is an example of disruptive technology, where innovation impacts pre existing value networks and generates a new market place. The implications behind the technology are usually broad and leads to accelerated development of varied downstream technologies. For example, the dNANO project is an application of DNA origami that aims to create standardized nano circuits which builds off the work of DNA origami. After speaking to Dr.Ferguson Pell, a biomedical engineer at the University of Alberta, adoption of these new technologies are hampered by the cost and accessibility at the time. Both these factors make early adoption of innovation unfeasible and therefore growth in these areas are likewise slow. For example, the field of synthetic biology has become a recent field exploration due to disruptive innovations in low cost sequencing and nucleotide synthesis making it economically feasible for innovators to innovate.


Our team recognized limitations which made DNA origami difficult to work with such as abberent base pair interactions, a lack of readily accessible resources, a lack of standardized documentation for structure construction and a community that is able to foster exploration with DNA origami. So we aimed to develop an open source repository for DNA origami. Open sourcing is a model in which information is able to be shared amongst a developer community composed of early adopters and enthusiasts, the benefit being knowledge spreading leading to rapid development. We then played around with the idea of sending DNA origami as a biobrick as iGEM has its own infrastructure for open source development. However, after realising the biobrick standard was incompatible with DNA origami, we decided to create our own initiative, the DNA origami library. Our tentative library would serve as a catalogue of entries for DNA origami shapes.

Each entry in the library will then contain the following:

  1. Sequence of the template strand
  2. Sequence of staples
  3. An in silico visualization of the structure
  4. A TEM of the actual structure
  5. A detailed protocol that was utilized in the constructions. Parameters such as oligo concentrations and incubations will be some of the mandatory requirements included in each entry
  6. Any other notes that may assist in reproducibility the structure folding

Reproducibility is the main concern with many science based innovations and our hope is that with the DNA Origami library, we are able to cut down on time and resources spent troubleshooting with DNA origami construction, so that innovators can dedicate their energy innovating with DNA origami rather than making DNA origami. Our hope is that from this open source frame work, innovations with DNA origami can come about similar to how dNANO is an innovation in nano circuitry stemming off of DNA origami. However, with many innovations come the issue of ownership and intellectual property.

Intellectual Property Rights

Intellectual property is described as any product, invention that has come about from the creative process and has the ability to be protected by a patent, copyright, trademark or any other form of legislative protection. With our novel innovation in DNA origami, dNANO, we wanted to know more about the legislation that is out there to ensure that any innovations from our open source initiative can be made ours. We consulted TEC Edmonton, a startup incubator for more information in regards to IP rights in determining what is protected under Canadian patent law. A patent is a method of protecting inventions in which the inventor discloses the details of the creation to the level of detail where another individual can replicate the device in place for exclusive rights to that invention for set amount of time. In Canada and the United States that time is 20 years. According to TEC, in order for an invention to be patentable it must demonstrate 3 attributes:

  1. Novelty- Is this invention/application the first of its kind?
  2. Usefulness- Does this invention show some sort of utility?
  3. Non obviousness- The invention must improve on existing technology that is not obvious. For example, one cannot patent a series of lightbulbs since it does not deviate enough from the base invention being the lightbulb.

Things that can be patented are concepts, inventions and applications of other products. In every patent is a state of claims made by the inventor, so long as there is enough evidence to demonstrate what is claimed in the patent then it has the potential to be patented. By doing so the patentee is claiming their creation is reasonably enabled. The team broke down the DNA origami aspect into three individual components: the template strand, the staple strands and the final structure which all can be patented.


As the act of patenting is costly, we were also introduced to the concept of strategic patenting. This practice ensures that the patentee has a much time as possible to work on their IP while being protected before fully committing economically to the patenting process. Since we will be disclosing the majority of out findings on the iGEM wiki in late October, the ability to file a patent in many international markets are limited as they immediately label any knowledge on the internet as public domain. For a patent in Canada/United States, there is a one-year grace period after the date of disclosure in order to file a patent before the IP becomes part of the public domain. During this time period, one can file for a provisional patent valid for Canada and the U.S, the function of the provisional patent is to serve as a place holder for a patent down the line and lasts for a year from the date of filing. After the 12 months, one can go straight into a U.S. patent which lasts 20 years or can file a Paris Convention Treaty Patent, which would extend protection by 18 months which allows for more time to get research funding, additional development and entrepreneurship.


As a team we were also curious to see how intellectual property rights in emerging markets affected patenting. The rationale behind this exploration was to explore intellectual property in other emerging markets and see whether or not dNANO could potentially commercialized. We then contacted and collaborated with the Sichuan University (SCU-China) iGEM team in order to compare and contrast intellectual property rights in Canada and in China.

We realized that some countries have compulsory licencing where the government is able to licence out one’s IP without prior consent of the inventor. Usually, these are granted under special circumstances such as a national emergency and ultimately undermines the inventor’s autonomy with the IP. P

To read Laws on Intellectual Property Rights & Protection In Canada

To read Laws on Intellectual Property Rights & Protection In China


Most patents lead to business development in some capacity. As a project that originated from the university, share of the venture would be divided in a way where a third is assigned to the university, a third is assigned to the inventors and the last third is assigned to the party that is responsible for commercialization. So if the inventors choose to commercialize their technology independently, they would have 2/3s of the company share. The most likely progression of dNANO would be first to patent the technology. Once we own the exclusive rights, TEC would then suggest connecting with industry partners who we would licence our toolkit to. Alternatively, TEC also suggested an option to a be likely route, where we would give the company exclusive rights to our technology for 1-2 years. In this time, logistical aspects would be dealt with the company such as scaling up production or further developing the technology in house. We would then licence out the technology to company once the option expires. TEC has also given insights into how other factors can play a role in whether startup is successful or not. For example, does the technology in question address a market need? If not, then demand for such a technology will not exist and the startup will fail. Other pitfalls, are that start-ups fail to recognize how long it takes for technology to become commercialized and end up bleeding themselves out financially. At the moment, the market share for nanotechnology has been slow, however most efforts are focussed on drug delivery. Perhaps, future innovations in DNA origami should be directed at novel drug delivery methods?


As a project that originated from the university, share of the venture would be divided in a way where a third is assigned to the university, a third is assigned to the inventors and the last third is assigned to the party that is responsible for commercialization. So if the inventors choose to commercialize their technology independently, they would have 2/3s of the company share.



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