North Carolina Law Review

University of North Carolina School of Law

160 Ridge Road

Chapel Hill, NC 27514

Cancer's IP

January 17, 2018

96 N.C. L. Rev. 297 (2018) 


The state of publicly funded science is in peril. Instead, new biomedical research efforts—in particular, the recent funding of a “Cancer Moonshot”—have focused on employing public- private partnerships, joint ventures between private industry and public agencies, as being more politically palatable. Yet, public- private partnerships like the Cancer Moonshot center on the production of public goods: scientific information. Using private incentives in this context presents numerous puzzles for both intellectual property law and information policy. This Article examines whether—and to what extent—intellectual property and information policy can be appropriately tailored to the goals of public-private partnerships. It shows that the success of the Cancer Moonshot, and other similar public-private partnerships, turns on data-sharing—the production, disclosure, and ultimate use of data. Consequently, encouraging private participation in data-sharing will likely require some form of patents, trade secrets, and regulatory exclusivities, appropriately limited to further the program’s public aims. The Article concludes by using the Cancer Moonshot to draw broader lessons about this new turn in research funding, public-private partnerships generally, and considerations of data privacy, scientific reproducibility, and transaction costs.



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