Biological resource centers (BRCs) are the world’s “living libraries.” BRCs offer independent and shared access to authenticated biological materials for research applications in the life sciences in government, industry, and academia. They maintain large and varied collections—including cell lines, microorganisms, recombinant DNA material, and biological media and reagents—and information technology tools that allow researchers to access biological materials.
BRCs have established themselves as a crucial element in the life science innovation infrastructure, but today the 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.
Here, Scott Stern provides a systematic economic assessment of the impact of biological resource centers through their role in facilitating cumulative knowledge in the life sciences and their role 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 control of an access to biological materials. Stern argues that science and innovation policy must be premised on a clear understanding of the role that knowledge hubs play on policy mechanisms that encourage their sustained growth and effectiveness.