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Biobazaar: The Open Source Revolution and Biotechnology Hardcover – March 1, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-0674026353 ISBN-10: 0674026357 Edition: First Edition
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Australian biologist and lawyer Hope challenges the "commercialization of life sciences research over the final quarter of the last century" in this rigorous, closely reasoned book. Referencing Thomas Kuhn's groundbreaking volume, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Hope takes a hard look at intellectual property law, which currently protects monopolistic corporations' right to inflate prices for "life-saving drugs or life-sustaining new crops." Sensing "a paradigm shift in the values underpinning life sciences research," Hope seeks to readdress these policies by applying the model of open-source software to the biotech field. She finds a keen analogy in the Microsoft-Linux conflict, which ultimately broke Microsoft's monopoly and allowed market forces to operate unhindered, ultimately lifting all ships, and devotes an entire chapter to open source licensing which would end "proprietary exclusivity" while maintaining the principles of intellectual property (permitting use or distribution "for free or for a fee-without having to pay royalties to the licensor"). While the plan seems a stretch-necessitating international agreement to revise existing treaties-Hope is optimistic, providing a provocative, highly intelligent and practical argument on a hot topic; though it's no easy read, policy wonks and scientists will find much to appreciate.
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Review

Biobazaar is the first book dedicated to studying current efforts at open biological innovation. It is a well-researched and thoughtful analysis of the great potential that such innovation holds for improving the ways we address some of our most basic human needs. (Yochai Benkler, author of the Wealth of Networks)

Can an open-source-style economy in life sciences change the landscape of innovation, and for the better? Hope provides a much-needed, reasoned guide to thinking through that critical question. (Steven Weber, author of The Success of Open Source)

Life Sciences are set to become the driver of 21st century economic and national competitiveness, much as Information technology was at the end of the 20th century. Janet Hope's Biobazaar: The Open Source Revolution and Biotechnology takes on a fundamental question that will determine where innovation happens in biotechnology: Who owns what pieces of intellectual property in this system, and what can they do with what they own? Her thoughtful and non-ideological assessment of the problem leads to a powerful analogy with software and the open source model for producing complex knowledge goods. Can an open source style economy in life sciences change the landscape of innovation, and for the better? Hope provides a much-needed, reasoned guide to thinking through that critical question. (Steven Weber, author of The Success of Open Source)

Are we on the verge of an open source revolution? If not a revolution, surely a growing rebellion. Hope gives us food for thought on the possibilities. (James Love New Scientist 2008-01-26)

[A] rigorous, closely reasoned book. Referencing Thomas Kuhn's groundbreaking volume, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Hope takes a hard look at intellectual property law, which currently protects monopolistic corporations' right to inflate prices for "life-saving drugs or life-sustaining new crops." Sensing "a paradigm shift in the values underpinning life sciences research," Hope seeks to readdress these policies by applying the model of open-source software to the biotech field. (Publishers Weekly 2008-01-21)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; First Edition edition (January 31, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674026357
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674026353
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,812,337 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A. J. Sutter on March 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The author of this book (JH) has used her professional background in both law and biology to produce a comprehensive, closely-reasoned work. Drawing on Eric Raymond's software development dichotomy of "The Cathedral and the Bazaar", she makes a passionate and intriguing case for replacing the hierarchical ("cathedral-building") style of usual corporate biotech R&D with collective, "bazaar"-based production (a/k/a "commons-based peer production" and "horizontally networked user innovation," @109), like that in open source software communities.

It's clear that JH has thought through the pros, cons and implications of open source very thoroughly. In fact, quite apart from biotech, you can learn a lot about the business and legal aspects of open source software from this book. JH also makes many imaginative and potentially fruitful suggestions about how open source biotech tools could be exploited to help address tropical diseases, or be of use to (and perhaps be financed by) generic pharmaceutical firms, for example. Throeughtout, she pays attention not only to "red", health-related biotech, but also "green", agricultural biotech (albeit omitting "white" biotech, for industrial applications).

That the successes of open source biotech to date have been few and far between, and have largely related to IT or digital content rather than to "wet" technology, does take some of the fizz out of the topic by the end of the book. But there's still a lot of interesting content buried here, and as for applying it, maybe someday someone might get it right.

If you're interested in intellectual property, a book like this could be exciting and stimulating. Unfortunately, this book falls short of that. The reason is the presentation, which has weaknesses at several levels.
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Biobazaar: The Open Source Revolution and Biotechnology
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