Access to Bio-Knowledge: From Gene Patents to Biomedical Materials

27 Pages Posted: 8 Jul 2009 Last revised: 9 Feb 2014

Date Written: June 25, 2009


Patents claiming DNA sequences have been subject to extensive public and scholarly criticism due to their potential to impede innovation and to restrict access to affordable healthcare. Recent empirical studies, however, indicate that access to materials is a much more serious problem than patents are for basic biomedical researchers, and access to materials is also a critical problem for producers of biomedical end products like biopharmaceuticals. This Note argues that these physical research tools should be included in a more expansive concept of “bio-knowledge,” and that solving the access to materials problem is critical for increasing biomedical innovation. This problem has been caused in part by changing norms among basic researchers, but fully undoing the commercialization of university research is neither possible nor desirable. Instead, partial solutions may be found within the patent system, both through reducing the transaction costs associated with material transfers and through increased use of official material depositories by both basic and industrial researchers.

Keywords: gene patent, DNA patent, access to knowledge, biopharmaceutical, genetic diagnostic, material transfer agreement, material depository

Suggested Citation

Ouellette, Lisa Larrimore, Access to Bio-Knowledge: From Gene Patents to Biomedical Materials (June 25, 2009). Stanford Technology Law Review, N1, 2010, Available at SSRN:

Lisa Larrimore Ouellette (Contact Author)

Stanford Law School ( email )

559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305
United States


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