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.
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