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Heidi Sease Nebel

Heidi is an Intellectual Property attorney with over 30 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, served as managing partner for more than 10 years and is currently on the firm’s Management Committee.  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 is actively involved in AUTM (The Association of University Technology Managers) where she was elected to the Board of Directors in 2019. AUTM is the non-profit leader in efforts to educate, promote and inspire professionals in support of the development of academic research and technology transfer. The community is comprised of more than 3,000 members who work in more than 800 universities, research centers, hospitals, businesses and government organizations around the globe. She is recently completed a 3 year Board term and was honored to represent the organization in meeting with the Biden Harris transition team for the Department of Commerce.

Heidi also is serving a third term for the USDA on the PVP Advisory Board as she was recently re-appointed by the United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsac.  The USDA PVP Advisory Board helps shape the country’s IP policy for plants through the Plant Variety Protection Act. Current work on the Board has involved PVP harmonization with the rest of the world under UPOV and implementing the sweeping changes enacted by the 2018 Farm Bill.

She was appointed by the United States Secretary of Commerce to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Patent Public Advisory Committee (PPAC).  The PPAC committee is a direct report to the Under Secretary of Commerce and the USPTO Commissioner for Patents, Kathi Vidal and the PTAB both report to the PPAC to help shape patent policy for the United States.  Heidi was appointed to Vice Chair of the PPAC for 2023 by Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo.

Her clients include over 45 universities and research institutions, as well as fortune 500 companies around the world.

Heidi 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.

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 50 peer review journal publications to date and has been exclusively licensed to Monsanto for use in their product development pipeline in plants and has recently been licensed for human use.

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.

In August of 2020, she obtained a decision from the US Patent Board of Appeals reversing the patent office and in providing key insight to the interpretation of the Plant Patent Act. See, Ex Parte Iezzoni Appeal number 2020-001469.

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 the 2022 recipient of the Iowa Biotechnology Association Biotech Leader Award for her accomplishments and significant achievements in biotechnology.  She was also one of 5 finalists for the 2022 CEO of the Year by the Technology Association of Iowa.

Heidi is rated as AV Preeminent® by LexisNexis/Martindale-Hubbell, the highest possible peer review rating for legal ability and ethical standards.

Heidi has recently been selected as a member of the Advisory Board for the Women in Leadership Certificate Program at the University of North Dakota. The Advisory Board works towards a shared vision to inspire change within organizations and throughout the community.  As Heidi continuously embodies the values this program exhibits, she joins a group of champions to further improve a world-class executive education program. Advisory Board members are tasked with reviewing the program offerings and discussing curriculum of the Women in Leadership Certificate Program. This program strives to create leadership in action, including courses on Emotional Intelligence, Advocacy, Actions and Accountability, Executive Leadership and Organizational Culture and much more. Heidi is honored is share this appointment with other senior executives at companies such as Amazon, Bobcat and Shazam, Fisher Industries, MDU Resources, Noridian Mutual Insurance, SCHEELS and TMI Hospitality. Heidi is thrilled to inspire change and support the education of the upcoming generations of executive women in leadership across the country.

  • 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


  • Planning Committee – AUTM Health Technologies Partnering Forum, 2023
  • Member – National Board of Directors, 2020 – 2023
  • Member – Midwest Region Board– 2016 – 2020
  • Member and Head of Plant Special Interest Group
  • Board member delegate on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee

United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Patent Public Advisory Committee (PPAC) – Vice Chair

USDA Plant Variety Protection (PVP) Advisory Board Member

SIPA  Seed Innovation and Protection Alliance

Heartland Regional Innovation Engine Board of Governance

CIOPORA -International Community of Breeders of Asexually Reproduced Horticultural Plants.

American Seed Trade Association

  • Intellectual Property Group

American Intellectual Property Law Association

  • Biotechnology section, Law Practice Management section

ChIPs  an organization that advances and connects women in technology, law and policy

Iowa Biotechnology Association

Iowa Intellectual Property Law Association

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

Court Appointed Special Advocate – advocacy for CHINA individuals in the Court System






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.

“In the Weeds: Navigating Cannabis-based Research Opportunities and IP Protection in the Federal Prohibition World”, AUTM Central, July 29, 2019

“Plant Variety Protection for Sexually Propagated, Tuber Propagated and Asexually Reproduced Varieties”, AUTM Webinar, August 5, 2020

“Enforcing PVPs and Other Remedies for Plants and Plant Varieties”, Seed Innovation and Protection Alliance (SIPA) Webinar, December 10, 2020

“The Options Available for Protecting Intellectual Property Rights for Plants”, Center for Sorghum Improvement Seminar, April 13, 2021

“It Is Our Duty to Protect the Patent System. Here’s How We Can.”, AUTM Insight Newsletter-Boardroom Perspectives and MVS Filewrapper Blog Post, April 21, 2022

“University Tech Transfer Offices/Breeders”, Panel Discussion, Seed Innovation and Protection Alliance (SIPA) Ed Unit, April 26, 2022

Patenting of Plants Class Presentation at Northwestern University, April 27, 2022

“Enforcement of Plant Related IP”, Panel Discussion, AUTM Annual Meeting, February 20, 2023

“Intellectual property and legal perspective on new technologies and variety development”, UPOV Seminar on the interaction between plant variety protection and the use of plant breeding technologies, March 22, 2023. A copy of the proceedings is available here and Heidi’s presentation is on page 124.

Plant Patent Webinar, University of Kentucky Intellectual Property Alliance, June 26, 2023

“Innovate & Cultivate – Breaking Down Barriers for Gene Edited Crops”, Panel Discussion on the recent EPA regulation changes for gene edited crops, CSU Strata, February 1, 2024

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 – 2022

AV Preeminent® by LexisNexis/Martindale-Hubbell

Iowa Biotechnology Association Biotech Leader Award – 2022

Reflections on Intellectual Property and Plant Breeding since 1924

MVS is celebrating 100 years of creating, protecting and enforcing Intellectual Property (IP) Rights for our clients.    We share this milestone with another organization that acts as an  advocate for strong IP rights, the International Seed Federation.  Founded in 1924 as well, the International Seed Federation’s mission is to “To create the best environment […]

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European Parliament proposals, the good and the ban………..

The European parliament has been busy in the area of plants lately. I was excited to learn of the relaxation of the regulation of plants produced by “New Genetic Techniques” at the recent ASTA meeting in Monterey California. Today, I learned of a more disappointing development, the vote of a complete ban on patenting of […]

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Exciting News from the USDA Announced Today for US Plant Breeders

The United States’ implementation of UPOV’s Plant Breeders Rights is singularly unique in the world, in that it does not require field trials and testing results.  An applicant’s representations as to Distinctness, Uniformity and Stability, are accepted without confirmation in a US application for Plant Breeders Rights, or PVP.  When filing for analogous Plant Breeders […]

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Annual Report of the Patent Public Advisory Committee is Now Public.

After a year of hard work and an unprecedented number of requests for comments, advanced notices of pubic rule making, interactions with Director Vidal, as well as a fee setting proposal for 2025, the annual report of the Patent Public Advisory Committee is now public.  For those who missed our public hearing November 30, the […]

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It Is Our Duty to Protect the Patent System. Here’s How We Can.

This article was first published in AUTM Insight. As an attorney in private practice, time is money – quite literally. The billable hour looms over every business day. With that in mind, people often ask me why I choose to volunteer my time and serve for organizations such as AUTM, the Plant Variety Protection (PVP) […]

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Get out and Support Technology Transfer and the USICA!

Research that is conducted at our many Universities has changed the lives of us all with valuable scientific advances that translate into commercial products. Public sector research has lead to ground breaking new technology such as gene editing, as well as cutting-edge mRNA Covid-19 vaccines. Other commercial products such as high-definition televisions, Google’s search algorithm, […]

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Celebrating International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day on March 8th each year celebrates the social, economic, and political achievements of women around the world. The day also brings international awareness to gender parity. The state of Iowa has a storied history of gender equality with the Arabella Mansfield, the first woman in the country admitted to a state bar […]

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Biden Names Winston & Strawn’s Vidal For USPTO Director

President Biden announced today that he is nominating Kathi Vidal of Winston & Strawn as the new U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Director.  Vidal is a patent litigator and managing partner of the Silicon Valley office of Winston & Strawn, where she has been since 2017.  Prior to that, she was with Fish & […]

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MVS congratulates Dr. John McKay and our client, New West Genetics, for being featured on the cover of Genetics

The article titled “Quantitative trait loci controlling agronomic and biochemical traits in Cannabis sativa” is published in this prestigious journal and makes up for lost time in understanding the genetics of important traits in Hemp. Understanding the genetic basis of complex traits is a fundamental goal of evolutionary genetics. Yet, the genetics controlling complex traits […]

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PVP Office Now Accepting Hemp Seed Deposits

The USDA is now indicating that it has formalized arrangements with the National Laboratory for Germplasm Resources Preservation (NLGRP) to begin accepting Hemp Seed Deposits for Plant Variety Protection Applications. A seed deposit for a Plant Variety Protection Certificate acts as a “voucher” to prove that the application is accurate and that the applicant had […]

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Celebrating International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day on March 8th each year celebrates the social, economic, and political achievements of women around the world. The day also brings international awareness to gender parity. The state of Iowa has a storied history of gender equality with the Arabella Mansfield, the first woman in the country admitted to a state bar […]

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Celebrating Technology Transfer Professionals Day on December 12th

Tomorrow we celebrate Technology Transfer Professionals Day and salute all those who work in helping our universities and research institutions in advancing their discoveries to a final product or service. These professionals are responsible for successful innovation management, corporate engagement, protecting and licensing inventions to companies, new venture creation and incubation, and economic development. This […]

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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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