Basser Seminar Series

The Initiative for Open Innovation: Creating a worldwide patent informatics cyberinfrastructure to increase transparency, efficiency and equity in science-enabled innovation

Enterprise Information Infrastructure (EII) Research Network Seminar

Dr Richard A. Jefferson
Founder & CEO of CAMBIA

Time: Wednesday 21 May 2008, 4-5pm

Location: The University of Sydney, School of IT Building, Lecture Theatre (Room 123), Level 1


Perhaps the greatest revolution to impact human society has been the development of the scientific method. Using science as a tool for innovation has created unprecedented opportunities for creating social and economic value. But with over half the world's population living on less than a few dollars a day, food crises pushing ever more people into poverty, water, soil and other natural resources being squandered and a planet in meltdown, we urgently need to up our game. We must make great progress and we must make it soon; and science must be a critical part of the toolkit.

Increasingly, the intellectual property system that had originally been created to foster such progress is becoming, in the words of the President of the European Patent Organization "dysfunctional": complex, opaque, fragmented and gamed for private benefit at the expense of public good. This has resulted in extraordinary inefficiencies in using science as a tool for innovation. These inefficiencies result in only the highest margins or largest markets garnering sufficient investment and attention.

The free and open source software movement constitutes another major revolution in innovation systems. The notion of coupling "permission to use" software with the "obligation to respect others' use" of the software, enforced through the intellectual property device of copyright license, has fostered an explosion in capabilities of both the software and the community that uses it. It has been nothing less than galvanizing of an industry and a sector. But this revolution is fragile: vulnerable to the new use of patents over software and algorithms.

I'll describe how using advanced informatics, creating open cyberinfrastructures and leveraging worldwide commitment to solving these problems can open new vistas for innovation transparency, efficiency and equity. We have developed a foundational platform for such transparency called the Patent Lens, as part of a larger Initiative for Open Innovation (IOI).

The Patent Lens is the world's largest and most sophisticated open access, independent resource for full text patent searching and analysis. We aspire to co-develop, in an open source environment, a platform for navigation and decision-support that mines and links worldwide full text of patents with business, scientific and technical information. The platform is sector and jurisdiction agnostic. The tools as they evolve will comprise sophisticated modeling and visualization technologies to allow international and national patent policy and practice to be built on a strong evidence base which is currently totally lacking.

Speaker's biography

Richard A. Jefferson, PhD is the founder and CEO of CAMBIA (, the BiOS Initiative and the Patent Lens. He is a prominent molecular biologist, and is responsible for creating and distributing some of the world's most widely cited and licensed biotechnologies. CAMBIA, an international non-profit institute based in Australia since 1992, is dedicated to development of resources, policies, tools and enabling technologies to promote equitable science-enabled innovation worldwide.

The CAMBIA BiOS Initiative ( - the biological open source movement – has achieved great traction internationally as an integrated response to technology complexity, patent thickets and innovation system inefficiencies.

As part of this work, CAMBIA created the Patent Lens, (, an independent, open access, public-good global cyberinfrastructure for increasing patent transparency. The Patent Lens is one of the most popular and most effective tools for searching and understanding worldwide patents. The Lens has many unique features, including analyis of DNA and protein sequence disclosed in patents. The CAMBIA Patent Lens was the first open web facility to allow full text searching of Australian patents, has been endorsed in cover editorials by The Plant Cell, Nature, Nature Biotechnology, and other leading scientific journals, and is the default patent tool for the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), the World Health Organization (WHO) and most North American and European universities and public agencies.

Richard's expertise as an inventor and disseminator of molecular enabling technologies and in IP and innovation systems strategy are widely recognised. Richard was a former senior staff member of the United Nations, and has worked and taught extensively in the developing world, supporting the Rockefeller Foundation's rice biotechnology network for over ten years. He has been profiled in media including The Economist, Newsweek, New York Times, Wall St Journal, Nature, Science, Nature Biotechnology and Red Herring. CAMBIA's work has recently featured and endorsed in cover editorials in most major life sciences journals. In 2003 he was named by Scientific American to the List of the World's 50 most influential technologists, cited as the World Research Leader for Economic Development. Richard is an Outstanding Social Entrepreneur of the Schwab Foundation, for which is a regular panelist at the Davos meeting of the World Economic Forum.