Cancer's IP

84 Pages Posted: 7 Mar 2017 Last revised: 18 Jan 2018

See all articles by Jacob S. Sherkow

Jacob S. Sherkow

University of Illinois College of Law; Carle Illinois College of Medicine; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology; Center for Advanced Studies in Biomedical Innovation Law

Date Written: January 17, 2018


The state of publicly funded science is in peril. Instead, new biomedical research efforts — in particular, the recent funding of a “Cancer Moonshot” — have focused on employing public-private partnerships, joint ventures between private industry and public agencies, as being more politically palatable. Yet, public-private partnerships like the Cancer Moonshot center on the production of public goods: scientific information. Using private incentives in this context presents numerous puzzles for both intellectual property law and information policy. This Article examines whether—and to what extent — intellectual property and information policy can be appropriately tailored to the goals of public-private partnerships. It shows that the success of the Cancer Moonshot, and other similar public-private partnerships, turns on data-sharing — the production, disclosure, and ultimate use of data. Consequently, encouraging private participation in data-sharing will likely require some form of patents, trade secrets, and regulatory exclusivities, appropriately limited to further the program’s public aims. The Article concludes by using the Cancer Moonshot to draw broader lessons about this new turn in research funding, public-private partnerships, generally, and considerations of data privacy, scientific reproducibility, and transaction costs.

Keywords: Patent, Science, Cancer, Drugs, Pharmaceuticals, Information Policy, Privacy, Data-Sharing, Intellectual Property, Clinical Trials, Moonshot, Public-Private Partnerships

JEL Classification: K11, K19, K39, O34, K00

Suggested Citation

Sherkow, Jacob S., Cancer's IP (January 17, 2018). North Carolina Law Review, 2018, Vol. 96, pp. 297-380, NYLS Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2928241, Available at SSRN:

Jacob S. Sherkow (Contact Author)

University of Illinois College of Law ( email )

504 E. Pennsylvania Avenue
Champaign, IL 61820
United States

Carle Illinois College of Medicine ( email )

506 S Mathews Ave
Urbana, IL 61801
United States

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology ( email )

Urbana, IL
United States

Center for Advanced Studies in Biomedical Innovation Law ( email )

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Studiestrade 6
Copenhagen, DK-1455


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