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Some critical episodes in the progress of medical innovation: An Anglo-American perspective


  • Rosenberg, Nathan


The central concern of this paper is to show that medical innovations have depended heavily on breaking down barriers that have long prevailed in the academic world, in the form of disciplinary boundaries that have coalesced into separate departments; to be specific, some of the biggest breakthroughs for the Life Sciences have come from the realm of the Physical Sciences. The present study is confined mainly to molecular biology and to diagnostic technologies (as well as to the therapeutic technologies that have frequently flowed from them); both owed a great deal to institutional innovations that emerged in the Anglo-American medical research world. Opportunities for transfers of instrumentation and techniques across disciplinary boundaries have been considerably strengthened as medical schools have been located, geographically and organizationally, closer to the universities. The American Medical Centers and the Stanford Program provide many examples. These achieved more than counterparts in the UK like the Cavendish Laboratories at Cambridge, which had pioneered in such fields.

Suggested Citation

  • Rosenberg, Nathan, 2009. "Some critical episodes in the progress of medical innovation: An Anglo-American perspective," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(2), pages 234-242, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:respol:v:38:y:2009:i:2:p:234-242

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Lynne G. Zucker & Michael R. Darby & Marilynn B. Brewer, 1994. "Intellectual Capital and the Birth of U.S. Biotechnology Enterprises," NBER Working Papers 4653, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Ali, Ayfer & Gittelman, Michelle, 2016. "Research paradigms and useful inventions in medicine: Patents and licensing by teams of clinical and basic scientists in Academic Medical Centers," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 45(8), pages 1499-1511.
    2. Costa, Cátia Miriam & Mendonça, Sandro, 2019. "Knowledge-intensive consumer services. Understanding KICS in the innovative global health-care sector," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 48(4), pages 968-982.
    3. Lander, Bryn & Atkinson-Grosjean, Janet, 2011. "Translational science and the hidden research system in universities and academic hospitals: A case study," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 72(4), pages 537-544, February.
    4. Nemet, Gregory F., 2012. "Inter-technology knowledge spillovers for energy technologies," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(5), pages 1259-1270.
    5. Blandinieres, Florence, 2019. "Anatomy of the medical innovation process: What are the consequences of replicability issues on innovation?," ZEW Discussion Papers 19-011, ZEW - Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research.
    6. Taran Thune & Magnus Gulbrandsen, 2016. "Innovation in hospitals: piloting a tool for investigating contributions of hospital employees to innovation," Working Papers on Innovation Studies 20161211, Centre for Technology, Innovation and Culture, University of Oslo.
    7. repec:spr:svcbiz:v:12:y:2018:i:3:d:10.1007_s11628-017-0355-4 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Kato, Masatoshi & Odagiri, Hiroyuki, 2012. "Development of university life-science programs and university–industry joint research in Japan," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 41(5), pages 939-952.
    9. Giovanni Dosi & Richard Nelson, 2013. "The Evolution of Technologies: An Assessment of the State-of-the-Art," Eurasian Business Review, Springer;Eurasia Business and Economics Society, vol. 3(1), pages 3-46, June.
    10. Dosi, Giovanni & Nelson, Richard R., 2010. "Technical Change and Industrial Dynamics as Evolutionary Processes," Handbook of the Economics of Innovation, in: Bronwyn H. Hall & Nathan Rosenberg (ed.), Handbook of the Economics of Innovation, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 0, pages 51-127, Elsevier.
    11. Taran Thune & Magnus Gulbrandsen, 2016. "Combining knowledge to generate new ideas. A study of disclosed ideas for life science inventions," Working Papers on Innovation Studies 20161209, Centre for Technology, Innovation and Culture, University of Oslo.
    12. Gittelman, Michelle, 2016. "The revolution re-visited: Clinical and genetics research paradigms and the productivity paradox in drug discovery," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 45(8), pages 1570-1585.
    13. Cockburn Iain M. & Stern Scott, 2010. "Finding the Endless Frontier: Lessons from the Life Sciences Innovation System for Technology Policy," Capitalism and Society, De Gruyter, vol. 5(1), pages 1-50, July.
    14. Nemet, Gregory F. & Johnson, Evan, 2012. "Do important inventions benefit from knowledge originating in other technological domains?," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 41(1), pages 190-200.
    15. Thune, Taran & Mina, Andrea, 2016. "Hospitals as innovators in the health-care system: A literature review and research agenda," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 45(8), pages 1545-1557.
    16. Yaqub, Ohid, 2017. "Testing regimes in clinical trials: Evidence from four polio vaccine trajectories," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 46(2), pages 475-484.

    More about this item


    Medical innovation Life Sciences Instrumentation Interdisciplinarity Universities;

    JEL classification:

    • I23 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Higher Education; Research Institutions


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