Many have already the story of Dr. Douglas Prasher and how his discovery of one of the most powerful molecular biology research tools, Green Florescent Protein (GFP), resulted in the award of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Dr. Prasher’s former collaborators. Dr. Prasher provided his materials freely and without condition, to all comers, but his contributions to the field were not acknowledged when the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the 2008 Nobel in Chemistry, nor by federal granting agencies in the United States. Having enabled the field of fluorescent protein analysis, Dr. Prasher is out of money and out of science, with no attribution for his major contributions to the field of molecular and cellular biology.
Dr. Prasher should have provided his materials, openly and free of charge, to all academic collaborators under a Uniform Biological Material Transfer Agreement (UBMTA) to encourage the advancement of science, while codifying his contributions to his collaborators, and the field, through guaranteed attribution, authorship, or citation. He should also have filed a patent with his technology transfer office, so that companies making money from his discovery would pay a royalty that could support further scientific research in his laboratory. The simple use of common practice of technology transfer practices would have ensured that Dr. Prasher:
-received due scientific credit for his work
-benefitted from any commercial exploitation of GFP, and possibly derivative proteins
-gained substantial financial support for his science, commensurate with his contributions to science
Commercialization and collaboration are not mutually exclusive outcomes, and technology transfer best practices can help innovators like Dr. Prasher benefit from both. For more information about protecting your contributions to your field, please see CU TTO’s Bulletins page and our Invention Disclosure Forms.
Rick Silva directs CU TTO's University of Colorado Denver | Anschutz Medical Campus office.
7 hours ago