John Schloendorn is distributing "open source" plasmids, giving away proteins that normally cost biotech startups thousands of dollars per milligram, ready to be inserted into bacteria and reproduced at will, without any royalties.
As Schloendorn writes in O'Reilly's new biotech journal Biocoder, the move is a response to the extremely high cost of operating in biotech today, where materials that cost effectively nothing to reproduce are stratospherically priced and locked in with license agreements that prohibit researchers from resupplying themselves.
The protections of the closed-source biologics vending industry are actually thin as paper and brittle as glass. For most of this stuff, they have no patents, no copyright, no government regulations, hardly a lobby to speak of, and no monopolies of any kind. They manage to lock biotechnology away from new entrants and to keep the cost of doing science in the stratosphere for establishment professionals, solely through the physical possession of the source DNA and by imposing contractual restrictions on those willing to sign them.
What if there was an alternative? What if there was a source of DNA, tested and certified for the production of high-value biological reagents, that does not impose any restrictions on how the DNA gets used? If this alternative was available, the existing closed-source system would become obsolete overnight. Different reagent production companies could snap up these DNA constructs and start competing on efficiency of gene expression and reagent production, rather than on efficiency in keeping secrets. The prices of biological reagents would collapse, and the quality would improve, as these characteristics take the place of corporate secrets as the main criteria for competitive success. The power of free-market capitalism (meaning the nonsecretive, noncrony kind) would finally be unleashed to tear down the barriers to biotechnology-based scientific wealth, as it has done with so many barriers before it
Open Source Biotech Consumables [John Schloendorn/Biocoder]