Research paradigms and useful inventions in medicine: Patents and licensing by teams of clinical and basic scientists in Academic Medical Centers Articles uri icon



publication date

  • October 2016

start page

  • 11

end page

  • 23


  • 8


  • 45

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0048-7333

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1873-7625


  • In recent decades, teams that combine basic scientists with clinical researchers have become an important organizational mechanism to translate knowledge made in basic science ("the bench") to tangible medical innovations ("the bedside"). Our study explores whether inventing teams that span basic and clinical research are more effective at licensing than teams comprised of inventors from only one domain. We propose that laboratory science and clinical research represent fundamentally different research paradigms that defy a simple arithmetic of combining the skills of individuals on teams. Clinical and basic researchers inhabit distinct cultures of work that yield different, and sometimes conflicting, beliefs and approaches to problem-solving. We claim that the complexity and variability of most human medical problems limits the role of basic science in medical innovation. Instead, we argue that clinical research remains an important engine of innovation, even in a period of rapid advances in molecular and genetics sciences, and advanced analytical techniques, because clinical researchers have unique opportunities for insights that emerge from the joint activities of research and close observations of living patients. Our empirical analysis focuses on patents and licenses from two prominent Academic Medical Centers (AMCs) over a 30 year period. In hazard models of licensing we find, controlling for a range of effects, that inventions by teams composed of clinical researchers (MDs) are more likely to be licensed than inventions by teams of basic scientists (PhDs), and that inventions that include both MDs and PhDs are not more likely to be licensed. This leads us to question the translational model of combining expertise to bridge different domains. We also find that the training of the team leader has an effect on licensing that is independent of team composition, lending support to our interpretation.


  • medical innovation; academic medical centers; inventive teams; patents and licensing; basic and applied science; science-technology linkages; translational research; organizational-change; individual-level; bayh-dole; know-how; innovation; knowledge; industrial; science; firms