Intellectual Property Rights and Innovation: Evidence from the Human Genome


24 October 2012

Do intellectual property (IP) rights on existing technologies hinder subsequent innovation? In this seminar Professor Heidi Williams will present the results of a recent paper using newly-collected data on the sequencing of the human genome by the public Human Genome Project and the private firm Celera to investigate how Celera's gene-level IP influenced subsequent scientific research and product development. Across a range of empirical specifications, the results provide evidence that Celera's IP led to reductions in subsequent scientific research and product development on the order of 20 to 30 percent. From a policy perspective, these results suggest that, holding Celera's entry constant, an alternative lump-sum reward mechanism may have had social benefits relative to Celera's chosen form of IP. She will discuss these results in the context of existing theoretical and empirical research, and comment on the implications of these findings for public policy.

Heidi Williams is an Assistant Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is also a Faculty Research Fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). Heidi's research focuses on investigating the causes and consequences of technological change in health care markets. Heidi received her AB in mathematics from Dartmouth College in 2003, and her MSc in development economics from Oxford University in 2004, where she was a Rhodes Scholar. She received her PhD in economics from Harvard in 2010.

When: Wednesday, 24 October 2012, 12 noon - 2.00 PM

Where: Sir Alexander Fleming Room, 7th Floor, Southside, 105 Victoria Street, London