The stem-cell market -- patents and the pursuit of scientific progress

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Citation: Fiona Murray (2007) The stem-cell market -- patents and the pursuit of scientific progress. New England Journal of Medicine (RSS)

doi: 10.1056/NEJMp068256


Tagged: Biology (RSS) Patents (RSS), Intellectual Property (RSS), Economics (RSS)


Summary:

Published in the New England Journal of Medicine Murray's article can be seen as more of a case study and a high-level overview of her longer-form and much more detailed work in The Oncomouse that roared: Resistance and accommodation to patenting in academic science. Her article discusses the issuing of a patent that covers most lines of embryonic stem cells by James Thompson at the University of Michigan and the problems around licensing of stem-cells that followed and ultimately resulted in a successful challenge of the patent by a consumer watchdog organization.

Like in her paper on the onco-mouse, Murray argues that there are two ideologies or major institutional models at conflict between open science and the mode of commercialization. In this article, however, Murray takes much more a perspective stance and argues that, "it ought to be possible to create a stem-cell market that provides both rapid, unconditional access to the academic researchers and more circumscribed access to commercial scientists, along with higher prices and profit sharing."

Theoretical and practical relevance:

Murray's prescriptions seems to parallel the "two economies" model argued for by Lessig in a blog post and in his his book Remix: Making art and commerce thrive in the hybrid economy. Unlike Lessig who is geared more toward issues of culture and who is pursuing Creative Commons as the means toward this production, Murray is less clear about what a final arrangement might look like and is speaking toward a more scientific community.

Interesting, Science Commons seems to have done little pursue the strategy that Murray suggests focusing much more strongly on a firm position of completely open science open to commercialization. This later option seems more likely to gain the benefits to commerce and the economy of open science detailed by Rosenberg and Brooks (for example).