Interfacing biological sciences with other disciplines has metamorphosised human thought to unforeseen dimensions with the future trajectory now limited only by one's imaginative ability.
Enhanced understanding of systems biology coupled with unraveling the architectural secrets of molecules that combine to manifest life has opened vistas in medical sciences offering options to create new life forms, introduce tailored modifications in genetic codes, engineer designed effects in bio-systems to develop applications in the treatment of diseases, creation of newer bio-medial devices, test methods with the fond hope of improving the quality of life.
The unleashing of such science-based power and innovations obviously opens up options for commercial exploitation that would thrive on the wealth generated. It is clear that without appropriate commercial return, it would not be possible to fund the unending quest for knowledge thereby mounting enormous responsibility on society to ensure that the knowledge and wealth are responsibly used in the best interest of the environment and society.
The knowledge space is increasingly being fragmented into proprietary and non-proprietary domains based on structures provided by Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). The growing fear is whether this is leading to an enabling framework for fearless "knowledge sharing" to catalyse innovations, speedy value creation and wealth realization or is it leading the world into domains of "knowledge-blackholes" dominated by "knowledge haves" and "knowledge have-nots".
Progress in technology has far out paced developments in Intellectual Property Laws. The situation has got murkier as issues related to "experimental use exemptions" of patented technologies, "Conservation of Biodiversity" (CBD) and "Traditional Knowledge" (TK) and protection of "databases" begin to influence matters related to IPR. As competition becomes intense, sticky issues of copyright, design registration, trademarks, service marks, confidentiality, trade secrets, and privacy gain significance. An area of growing concern is the possible "shrinking of open accessible spaces" in the knowledge domain for fair societal use with conflicting needs of secrecy vs. openness.
Society has come to terms with the changing contours of the knowledge space. Newer methods of working including contract research, sponsored collaborations, working in cross-functional and cross-border teams, industry-institutional joint projects, public-private partnerships, etc. are realities we have to reckon with. We therefore need to closely examine and influence the national and international policies and practices to guide our actions of today and the future, simultaneously ensuring symbiotic linkages of knowledge, creativity, vision, and action, with meaningful business practices integrated with fair distribution of benefits for the evolution of a sustainable and equitable society.