The road to commerce

The commercialization of the GM potatoes required full transfer of the rights to use the technology to AGERI and/or Egyptian seed potato distributors. Safety issues moved from biosafety to food safety, bringing yet another complex set of international regulations in the mix (Codex Alimentarius is the internationally recognized body for setting food standards). The IPR issues moved from research MTAs to technology transfer and commercialization agreements.

The ABSP supported the renewed interest in the development of IPR regulation. ABSP initiated a short-term (3 weeks) training course in IPR protection and management, with sessions in California, Michigan and Washington, DC. An international internship programme in IPR, technology transfer, use and management was started, with interns spending 9-12 months working with ABSP and the MSU technology transfer office. In addition, a number of consultants were sent to Egypt to facilitate discussion and drafting of the necessary IPR legislation. The AGERI established a Technology Management and Commercialization Office (TMCO) as a service unit to provide support to AGERI researchers on IP management and technology transfer. This office now has a mandate to serve all the research institutes of the Agricultural Research Center (ARC) under the Ministry of Agriculture in Egypt. The TMCO office plays a key role in providing IP management education and creating awareness on IP-related issues. With the help of TMCO, the ARC in November 2002 developed a new policy related to technology management and commercialization.

One of the outcomes of this investment in IPR regulation was the development of an agreement between Syngenta and AGERI to license Syngenta's Bt gene (CRY 1Ia1 formerly CRYva) for distribution to resource-poor farmers.

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