09 November 2023

TIME Excellence Lecture

TIME Excellence Lecture

Please join us for a webinar on Tuesday the 14th of November 2023 at 11:00 London time i.e. 12:00 Brussels time, 13:00 Athens time. The speaker is Steven Sturdy, University of Edinburgh. The title of the talk is “The commercial roots of the ‘genomic commons’: DNA, intellectual property, and the pharmaceutical innovation system, 1990-2013".

This webinar is free and open to all. The moderator is Dr. Andreas Panagopoulos. 

Join Zoom:
Meeting ID: 964 7954 1729
Passcode: 123123

Abstract: With the proliferation of public repositories of genomic data, combined with the US Supreme Court’s landmark decision, in 2013, that naturally-occurring DNA sequences are not patentable subject matter, it has become commonplace to talk of the growth of a ‘genomic commons’ dedicated to the public good and protected from the predatory instincts of commercial organisations. This paper offers an alternative view. It situates the birth of the genomic commons in structural shifts in the pharmaceutical innovation system that occurred during the 1900s and early 2000s, and in the efforts of leading pharmaceutical companies to maintain their dominant position within that system. Focusing especially on debates over the role of patent rights in genomic research and development, it shows how the idea of the ‘commons’ was rehabilitated from tragedy to public good; and it charts how DNA sequences, specifically, became the focus for determining that certain kinds of goods should be allocated to the commons. It concludes that, contrary to its portrayal as a public defence against private exploitation, the current valorisation of ‘the commons’ implicitly serves to validate the idea of private enterprise as the preferred means of delivering public benefit in biomedicine.

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