Meeting Overview

Tension is increasing between fairly new and strong proprietary structures in science and norms of openness and free exchange. While structures of intellectual property and funding that are designed to spur innovation in scientific research and development (R&D) have been successful by some measures, some features of the current proprietary environment risk slowing innovation in R&D and skewing attention toward large markets, to the disadvantage of small markets, such as those for rare diseases and those in emerging economies. While these issues are pervasive in science, existing property relations within the field of stem cell research may be especially problematic with respect to both research productivity and benefit distribution. This project aims to identify, evaluate and address, through concrete and actionable recommendations, the challenges raised by proprietary practices in stem cell research in a way that promotes both scientific innovation and the public good. While similar issues have been studied before, prior approaches have inadequately recognized both the deep relationship between efforts to spur R&D in science and accounts of science as a public good, and the benefit to exploring pragmatic solutions in parallel with the philosophical questions underlying the entire endeavor. We propose a more comprehensive approach that grapples with the micro- and macro-level issues simultaneously, thus enabling the development of practical recommendations for near-term fixes that leave the door open for future transformational work to more fully align the whole system with the idea of science as a public good, making the path between the two clear, if not simple.

This Hinxton Group project will use our previously successful methodology, involving the convening of an international, interdisciplinary group of experts to explore and debate over the course of a three-day plenary meeting, augmented with an enhanced data collection and synthesis period conducted by the members of the US/UK steering committee plus a small number of additional experts. This executive committee has been tasked with gathering facts about the current state of proprietary issues in stem cell research, specifying the kinds of problems stakeholders are facing, and systematically examining the extent to which existing models can be adapted to address the challenges in stem cell research. The steering committee includes  Sarah Chan, Peter Donovan, Ruth Faden, John Harris, Robin Lovell Badge, Debra Mathews, Alan Regenberg, Julian Savulescu, and David Winickoff. The executive committee includes Bob Cook-Deegan, John Gearhart, Gregory Graff, Aurora Plomer, Krishanu Saha, Christopher Scott, John Sulston and Patrick Taylor. Following extensive information gathering and critical analysis, we have produced foundational documents that will be used as discussion tools to frame plenary and breakout meeting sessions.

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