Open Source Biology

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Just a place to store notes & links about the nascent open source biology/biotech community


  • Shifting Innovation to Users via Toolkits (von Hippel & Katz)
    • Jason R. Kelly 02:47, 20 May 2007 (EDT): One of the approaches advocated by Hope is to provide an Open Source 'toolkit', vonHippel et al demonstrate the success of such toolkits in a number of industries. Hope suggests that biotech meets the requirements described by von Hippel for an industry that could be served by user toolkits, such as "sticky information" (p822).
  • The Penguin's Genome, or Coase and Open Source Biotechnology (D.Opderbeck, Harvard J of Law and Tech)
    • Jason R. Kelly 21:04, 19 May 2007 (EDT): Opderbeck is more critical of OSB and suggests that "romanticized" views of open source fail to account for the differences between software and wetware. He concludes that information in biology is likely more rivalrous than information in software due to economic, social, and biological rivalry (section IV.C). He advocates an approach directed at lowering the transaction costs associated with traditional IP negotiations (rather than a new open source IP scheme) via a "National Biotechnology Database" that would contain all necessary info for prospective licensees and licensors.
      • "The analysis in Parts V.A and B above suggests that the principal issue in the biotechnology research commons is access to data that will help reduce transaction costs and strategic behavior. Therefore, biotechnology innovation policy should focus not on weakening intellectual property rights or on encouraging alternative development methods such as open source, but rather on making such data available." (p.244)
  • The Economics of Synthetic Biology (Henkel & Maurer)
    • Jason R. Kelly: The authors argue that standard parts in biology represents a network effect where a winner-takes-all outcome is likely. Previous examples have shown that the outcome can be proprietary (Microsoft), open (Apache), technically superior (Web), or technically inferior (VHS). Since academics currently control the lion's share of parts and expertise, the authors suggest the outcome could be influenced by taking action now. They recommend an embedded-linux model for sharing parts where parts are open-source, with a potentially short period (<5yrs) of proprietary protection (though immediate open release of the part is favored if there is sufficient incentive to construct it without the protection). They suggest the Registry of Standard Biological Parts could implement this scheme by requiring parts submitters to adhere to these rules. Finally, they suggest an entrant proprietary parts company would face a steep challenge against the Registry, as other companies would try to block it in order to avoid paying dues to a new monopoly player.

Groups doing this sort of thing