08 June 2023
Bioinformatics is a rapidly growing field that combines biology, computer science, and statistics to analyse biological data. The field has become increasingly important in recent years due to the explosion of data generated by advancements in high-throughput sequencing technologies.
The field has played a crucial role in advancing our understanding of genetics, genomics, and personalised medicine. However, there is a common misconception that many of the key aspects of these inventions are unpatentable such as features of genomic pipelines e.g clustering or aligning. There are of course, challenges to patenting bioinformatics methods but it can and is being done at an increasing rate.
Patenting in the field of bioinformatics is not new. In fact, the first bioinformatics-related patent was filed in 1988. However, it was not until the early 2000s that the number of bioinformatics-related patents began to increase significantly. This initial increase was driven by the rapid advances in DNA sequencing technologies, which enabled researchers to generate vast amounts of genetic data. These advances led to the development of new bioinformatics tools and methods for analysing and interpreting this data.
Figure 1: Increasing global trend of bioinformatics-related patents (data acquired from IP Quants)
In recent years, the number of bioinformatics-related patents has continued to increase. According to a report by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the number of bioinformatics-related patent applications increased by an average of 13.2% per year between 2013 and 2018 (Intellectual property protection indicators 2019). From data available since 2001, there has been a year-on-year increase in bioinformatics-related patents with a record-breaking number of patents filed in 2022 at just over 18,000 which is set to be broken again in 2023.
The increase in bioinformatics-related patents can be attributed to several factors.
The bioinformatics market is also a rapidly growing industry commercially, with a wide range of players offering products and services in the field. The global bioinformatics market in terms of revenue was estimated to be worth $10.1 billion in 2022 and is poised to reach $18.7 billion by 2027. Some of the major players in the bioinformatics market include:
To give an example, according to data acquired form IP Quants, Illumina Inc has over 470 patents relating to the bioinformatics field ranging from neural network-based pipeline to deep learning-based approaches, highlighting the diversity of technology available to patent within this field. These are just a few examples of the major players in the bioinformatics market. However, it is not only in industry where we have observed a rise in bioinformatics-related patents. There is a similar trend in academia. For example, the University of California has filed over 2000 patent application between 2002 and 2023, highlighting the academic interest in this field.
As the field continues to grow and evolve, new players are likely to emerge, offering innovative products and services to meet the growing demand for bioinformatics solutions.
The increase in bioinformatics-related patents reflects the growing importance of this field in advancing our understanding of genetics, genomics, and personalised medicine. As the field continues to evolve and expand, we can expect to see even more exciting developments and innovations in the future. It is important for researchers, industry professionals, and patent professionals to stay informed and engaged in this rapidly changing field.
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