Principles for disseminating scientific innovations

1. Large foundational datasets

Tracing back to the Human Genome Project, Broad scientists have been involved in systematic efforts to create large datasets intended to serve as a foundation for biological and medical studies in thousands of laboratories around the world.

To maximize their impact, the data from such projects should be made widely available to the entire scientific community through publicly available databases.

2. Sharing with academic institutions

As an academic non-profit research institute, Broad recognizes the unique role that such institutions play in propelling the biomedical ecosystem by exploring fundamental questions and working on risky, early-stage projects that often lack clear economic return.

To maximize its impact, our work (including discoveries, data, tools, technologies, knowledge, and intellectual property) should be made readily available for use, at no cost, by other academic and non-profit research institutions.

3. Interactions with industry

Industry plays an essential role in creating products to speed research (such as reagents and technologies) and to directly benefit patients (such as diagnostics and therapeutics). Industry is often able to undertake efforts that cannot be readily undertaken in academia — because, for example, they require funding at a scale that can typically be obtained only from private investment; specialized scientific expertise about drug development that is not typically available in academia; or the ability and infrastructure to run large clinical trials.

To ensure that our work ultimately benefits patients, we must interact with industry. We do so through (i) engaging in scientific collaborations with industrial partners who share our vision around a scientific area, and (ii) licensing our innovations to industry.

With respect to commercial licensing, our most important consideration is maximizing public benefit.

  • In most cases, we believe that this goal is best accomplished through non-exclusive licensing, which allows many companies to use innovations and thus compete to bring to market products incorporating them.
  • In some cases, we recognize that an exclusive license to an innovation may be necessary to justify the level of private investment required to develop a product and bring it to market. (An example is the composition-of-matter of drug. Without an exclusive license, a company would be reluctant to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in a clinical trial to demonstrate safety and efficacy, because competitors could subsequently ‘free-ride’ on their results to bring the same product to market.)

In each case, we evaluate the justification for exclusivity and seek to limit the scope of exclusivity.

4. Policy considerations

To ensure that scientific innovation benefits human health, scientists must also try to ensure that cutting-edge technologies are used in a socially responsible way.
We may place policy restrictions on certain licenses to prohibit uses that would be socially irresponsible based on current scientific knowledge and societal consensus. For example:

  • Our licenses on biomedical applications of CRISPR genome-editing technologies do not permit their use for human germline editing.
  • Our licenses on agricultural applications of CRISPR genome-editing technologies do not permit such purposes as ‘gene drives,’ ‘sterile seeds,’ and increasing tobacco consumption.