Heidi S. Nebel

Heidi is an Intellectual Property attorney with over 25 years of experience obtaining patents and designing IP strategy in the areas of biotechnology, chemicals and pharmaceuticals. Heidi is the Chair of the Biotechnology & Chemical practice group and is also the Managing Member of the Firm. She serves as an advocate for her clients and believes that the best results come from working in close association with the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office examiners.

Heidi participated in the seminal United States Supreme Court case, Pioneer v. J. E. M. Ag Supply, 534 U. S. 124 (2001), which confirmed the availability of utility patent protection for plants.

Heidi S. Nebel obtained patent 6,136,320 entitled VACCINES EXPRESSED IN PLANTS cited in MIT’s Technology Review magazine as “one of five patents that will transform business and technology”. The technology involved engineering plants to express various bacterial and viral antigens so that upon consumption of the resultant animal food product, an animal would become immunized.

From 2004 – 2009, Heidi led the MVS team in a strategic Alliance with Pioneer Hi-Bred International/DuPont. The Alliance involved a novel partnership where MVS attorneys attended monthly business strategy meetings and became educated on long range intellectual property goals of the company. The strategic alliance relationship included a monthly fixed fee in exchange for becoming the exclusive firm for all outside patent work for Pioneer Hi-Bred International/DuPont. This involved all technology areas for Pioneer Hi-Bred, and of course, focused primarily on patents in the plant area involving germplasm patents, transgenic protocols, genetically modified plants for both input and out traits, male sterility and many others. This was a great opportunity to provide value added service to one the firm’s largest clients.

Heidi also prepared and prosecuted US patent number 10,308,947 METHODS AND COMPOSITIONS FOR MULTIPLEX RNA GUIDED GENOME EDITING AND OTHER RNA TECHNOLOGIES for Dr. Yinong Yang from Penn State University. The groundbreaking technology involves methods to highly increase gene editing efficiency in plants and animals. The technology has been widely adapted with over 30 peer review journal publications to date and has been exclusively licensed to Monsanto for use in their product development pipeline.

In early May 2019, Heidi worked with New West Genetics to file an application for one of the first PVP Certificates for AOSCA-certified hemp seed variety approved for by the 2018 Farm Bill.

Agricultural patents in the animal area also form a large part of her practice including animal vaccines, gene editing, and sex selection. Heidi joined the firm in 1991, serves on the firm’s management committee and is the chairperson of the Biotechnology/Chemical Practice Group. She manages several of the firm’s largest clients and guides client teams to focus on overall business strategies around a solid intellectual property foundation. Heidi also enjoys being an advocate of biotechnology, speaking around the country on important issues in the field.

Heidi is actively involved in the Association of University Technology Managers where she serves on the Board of Directors. She also served on the Midwest Region Board for four years and has presented at meetings over the past 15 years. Heidi is rated as AV Preeminent® by LexisNexis/Martindale-Hubbell, the highest possible peer review rating for legal ability and ethical standards. Heidi was recently appointed by the United States Secretary of Agriculture to serve on the USDA PVP Advisory Board, to help shape the country’s IP policy for plants. Her clients include over 40 universities and research institutions, as well as fortune 500 companies around the world. Heidi is also an active member of ChIPs, a nonprofit organization that advances and connects women in technology, law and policy.

  • Biotechnology Patents
  • Chemical Patents
  • Licensing
  • Academic Research and Technology Transfer
  • Agritech
  • Animal Health
  • Chemistry, Material Sciences, and Nanotechnology
  • Food and Beverage Technologies
  • Pharma and Nutra

Professional Associations

Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM)

  • Member – National Board of Directors, 2020 – Present
  • Member – Midwest region Board of Directors – 2016 – 2020

American Intellectual Property Law Association

  • Biotechnology section, Law Practice Management section

Iowa Biotechnology Association

Iowa Intellectual Property Law Association

  • Executive Board 1999-present, Secretary 2001, President Elect 2002, President 2003

Iowa State Bar Association

Iowa Women’s Bar Association

Polk County Bar Association

Court Appointed Special Advocate


Drake University Law School, J.D., with Honors, 1992

University of Iowa, B.S., Molecular Biology, 1989

Publications & Presentations

“Appeals Before the Federal Circuit”, Practicing Law Institute Seminar on Patent Litigation (Co-authored with Tom Arnold), Fall 1990.

“Intellectual Property Protection for Biotechnology”, Iowa Commerce Magazine, January 1996.

“Patenting and Sequencing the Genome”, Chapter 8 of Intellectual Property Rights and Patenting in Animal Breeding and Genetics (Co-authored with Lila A.T. Akrad and Tonya Y. Brady), October 2002.

“BUSINESS BASICS: Understanding Patent Law”, December 2004.

“Growing Biotechnology in Iowa”, Iowa Biotechnology Association, September 2004.

“Intellectual Property Myths Debunked!”, Greater Des Moines Partnership, April 2007.

“Defining the Inventor”, AUTM Central Region Meeting, July 2007.

“Keeping Your Rights Shipshape: Inventorship, Authorship and Ownership”, AUTM Central Region Meeting, July 2007.

“US Patent System Under Reform, A Boon or Bust for Innovation?”, AUTM webinar, September 2008.

“It Is My Idea, I Think?” Iowa Farm Bureau, January 2009.

“Patenting Wheat Varieties and Gene Innovations”, National Wheat Quality Council, May 2013.

“IP Protection of Plants”, Drake Law School Midwest IP Symposium Spring CLE, March 25, 2016.

“Protection for Biotechnology”, South Dakota State University Internal Presentation, April 28, 2016.

Des Moines Women of Influence Awards, March 2017.

“What’s Hot in Crops: Key Issues in Agriculture”, AUTM Crop Productivity Partnering Forum, September, 2017.

“IP, Regulatory, & Tax”, Iowa Biotechnology Association Legal Symposium, November 2017.

Des Moines Women of Influence Awards March 2018.

“The Current State of Intellectual Property: A Broad-Spectrum Conversation”, The Conversation: AUTM Leadership Forum (Presented with the Honorable Paul Michel, Former Chief Justice, United States Court of Appeals for the federal Circuit), September 2018.

“Plant IP and Key Issues” NuTech Ventures, May 23, 2019.

Upcoming “In the Weeds: Navigating Cannabis-based Research Opportunities and IP Protection in the Federal Prohibition World”, AUTM Central, July 2019.

Bar & Court Admissions

U.S. Supreme Court, 2001

U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, 1993

Iowa State Bar, 1992

U.S. District Court, Northern and Southern Districts of Iowa, 1992

U.S. Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit, 1992

U.S. Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit, 1992

Great Plains Super Lawyers, Intellectual Property, 2018 – 2020

Pioneers of Revolutionary CRISPR Gene Editing Win Chemistry’s Nobel Peace Prize

Two scientists who pioneered the revolutionary gene-editing technology are the winners of this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Emmanuelle Charpentier, now at the Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens in Berlin, and Jennifer Doudna, at the University of California, Berkeley, were recognized for their work developing the CRISPR–Cas9 gene-editing tools. The technology allows […]

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EPO does not follow the US and JEM on Patentability of Plants

The Enlarged Board of Appeal has recently handed down its highly anticipated decision regarding the patentability of plants and plant varieties, in which the product is exclusively obtained by an essentially biological process (plant breeding). The Board held that plants and animals that are the result of traditional breeding or any other essentially biological process […]

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Plant Patent filings can now be made Electronically Due to the COVID-19 Outbreak

Yesterday in a press release, The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) indicated that it considers the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak to be an “extraordinary situation” and therefore will permit the filing of plant patent applications and follow-on documents via USPTO patent electronic filing systems (EFS-Web or Patent Center). The requirements for filing […]

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Plant Variety Protection (PVP) Advisory Board Update

I was honored to have attended the Plant Variety Protection (PVP) Advisory Board meeting last week. I continue to remain very impressed with the great work the PVP office is doing to implement the vast policy changes of the 2018 Farm Bill. In brief, the bill authorized the extension of United States PVP protection to […]

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COVID-19 NLGRP closure and PVP concerns

The National Laboratory for Genetic Resources (NLGRP) has temporarily closed due to COVID-19.  They are not accepting seed or tuber germplasm at this time.  They have requested that all germplasm deposits be delayed until further notice. What do I do if I need to make a deposit for my PVP application? If you have filed […]

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MVS Preparedness and Response to COVID-19

McKee, Voorhees & Sease, PLC (MVS) recognizes the increasing disruptions, anxiety, and suffering caused by COVID-19. Our deepest sympathy, thoughts and prayers of calm and strength go out to all who have been personally affected around the world. Our firm monitors information released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Department of State and […]

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2018 Farm Bill: Proposed Regulations for Comment

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has published proposed regulations for comment to enact the 2018 Farm Bill, Public Law No: 115-334, Sec. 10108. As one may recall, the bill amended the United States Plant Variety Protection (PVP) Act to add asexually propagated plants as a potential PVP certificate option. As a USDA PVP […]

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Big Changes Ahead for Plant Variety Protection (PVP)

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been hard at work developing regulations to implement the 2018 Farm Bill. The Bill introduces unprecedented changes to the United States PVP system with respect to asexually reproduced plants and hemp. Proposed regulations to implement changes for asexually reproduced plants will soon be published for comment. Those […]

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MVS Obtains Juristat Software

Ever wonder if you have been “blessed” with a difficult Examiner? Wondered if your issue in a case has been successfully resolved in another case? Wondered if your competitors are having the same issues before the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) as you? Wondered how many cases your competitor has filed? Wondered if […]

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2018 Farm Act has important IP Implications

At long last, the 2018 Farm bill has been approved by Congress and forwarded to the President for signature. As I blogged earlier, the bill has important Intellectual Property Implications. The first is that it adds PVP protection for asexually reproduced plants. The  addition will allow asexually reproduced plants, which are now protectable under the […]

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Gene Editing Regulatory Setback

The gene editing world was dealt a tremendous blow by the European Union (EU) in a decision issued July 25, 2018. The shock comes as the United Stated Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced that it would treat all gene edited crops with a deletion as outside of the regulations relating to “genetically modified” crops.  […]

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10 MONTH CONVERSION DEADLINE?? New Bayh Dole Regulations a Trap for the Unwary

Under the Bayh-Dole Act, businesses and nonprofit organizations that receive federal government funding, such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), or Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants, may retain ownership of inventions and patent applications that have been made with such funding. The requirements to retain ownership […]

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A Commentary on Women in the Profession and MVS

A recent article appeared in the Lexis Nexis news piece “Law360”, describing the dismal results of their annual “Glass Ceiling Report”. The article concluded that there had been “limited progress” for female attorneys in a male-dominated profession. Women have represented over 40% of law school students for decades, according to the American Bar Association, yet, […]

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In Memoriam–Michael Voorhees

IN MEMORIAM Michael G. Voorhees 1941-2018  We are deeply saddened by the loss of an exceptional friend, partner, advocate, and leader. Mike was born in Des Moines, Iowa on April 17, 1941 and received degrees from Iowa State University and Drake Law School. He practiced law in St. Louis, before joining the firm in 1970. […]

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