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Biological Resource Centers

Knowledge Hubs for the Life Sciences

Scott Stern

Publication Year: 2004

Biological resource centers (BRCs) collect, certify, and distribute organisms for use in research and in the development of commercial products in the pharmaceutical, agricultural, and biotechnology industries. They maintain a large and varied collection, including cell lines, micro-organisms, recombinant DNA material, biological media and reagents, and the information technology tools that allow researchers to access biological materials. BRCs have established themselves as a crucial element in the life science innovation infrastructure, from their early impact on virology, to their crucial role in addressing cross-culture contamination in the 1970s, to their current leadership in promoting a global biodiversity network. Today they confront new challenges, resulting from shifts in the nature of biological research, the interaction between public and private researchers, and the increasing focus on biosecurity. This book provides a systematic economic assessment of the impact of biological resource centers through their role in facilitating cumulative knowledge in the life sciences and building on their roles as knowledge hubs —institutions that facilitate the transfer of scientific and technical knowledge among members of a research community. The knowledge hubs framework offers insight into how to develop and evaluate policy proposals that impinge on the control and access of biological materials. Stern argues that science and innovation policy must be premised on a clear understanding of the role that knowledge hubs play and the policy mechanisms that encourage their sustained growth and effectiveness.

Published by: Brookings Institution Press

Title Page

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pp. v

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pp. vii

I am particularly indebted to the many scientists who graciously offered their insights, the personnel of the American Type Culture Collection, and especially Raymond Cypess and Robert Hay. ...

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Chapter 1. Introduction

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pp. 1-8

This book examines the history and explores the impact of biological resource centers, the world’s “living libraries.” These biological resource centers collect, store, and distribute varied biological materials—including cell lines, microorganisms, recombinant DNA material, media, and reagents—and provide ...

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Chapter 2. Evolution and Adaptation: A Short History of Biological Resource Centers

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pp. 9-35

The life sciences revolution is still in its infancy. But compared with other scientific and technological pursuits, the life sciences have grown dramatically over the past few decades. Most media coverage focuses on particular scientific discoveries or on the ethical and economic concerns raised by such breakthroughs. ...

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Chapter 3. Climbing atop the Shoulders of Giants: BRCs as Cumulative Knowledge Hubs

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pp. 36-55

By helping establish norms and procedures for authenticating and exchanging biological materials, biological resource centers have been crucial in the development of the life sciences in the past half century. Though the centers are invisible to the public, scientists are keenly aware of their impact, from their early influence on virology ...

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Chapter 4. A Penny for Your Quotes? The Impact of BRCs on Life Sciences Research

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pp. 56-75

Qualitative analysis suggests that the knowledge and materials associated with biological resource centers have an important impact on the cumulative research that is so central to scientific advancement, technological progress, and long-term economic prosperity. Chapter 3 identifies four distinct advantages associated with BRCs: ...

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Chapter 5. Policy Challenges and Principles: Implications for BRC Stakeholders

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pp. 76-104

The value of biological resource centers derives from their ability to amplify the impact of life sciences research; their ability to maintain their value depends on effective policy. Though valuable, biological resource centers are inherently fragile as scientific institutions. Scientists draw on materials and expertise provided by BRCs ...

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Chapter 6. Future Challenges

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pp. 105-109

This volume has provided a systematic assessment of the impact of biological resource centers on the production of cumulative knowledge. The analysis has highlighted the crucial role played by BRCs and related institutions in fostering scientific advancement over the twentieth century through the acquisition, ...

Appendix A: Econometric Results

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pp. 110-113

Appendix B: Biological Resource Centers: Policy Implications for Stakeholder Communities

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pp. 114-116


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pp. 117-122


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pp. 123-128

E-ISBN-13: 9780815797548
E-ISBN-10: 0815797540

Page Count: 128
Publication Year: 2004