Economic Geography | VOL. ahead-of-print

Creating Knowledge Assets under Biocapitalism: Analyzing China’s Biomedical Industry and Its Patent Networks

Publication Date Jul 2, 2022


Breakthroughs in biotechnology, globalizing intellectual property rights legislations, and growing venture capital in the past thirty years have given rise to new forms of capitalist accumulation that scholars called biocapitalism. Bioscientific knowledge under biocapitalism is increasingly parceled out from a global common to private enclosures for biotech and pharmaceutical companies, contributing to vast inequalities and fractures of global access to innovation evident in the COVID-19 pandemic. The assetization and financialization of knowledge have shifted the ground of innovation from competitive commodity production and exchanges to generating, managing, and commercializing patents and associated monopoly rights, thus raising the challenges of innovation for those developing countries specialized in production. Many Asian countries have invested heavily in biomedical sciences to enhance their knowledge assets but had limited success in translating the scientific development to a globally significant biomedical industry. This article discusses the evolution of China’s biomedical industry from a technological laggard to a recent innovation boom after a regulatory overhaul in 2015. Analyzing the patent collaborative networks of China’s biomedical industry since 2003, we found the central roles of domestic public research institutions, in contrast to multinational corporations, as cutting-edge knowledge providers. We argue that China’s path of the biomedical industry is distinct from its other technology industries that r...


Biomedical Industry Drug Regulatory Systems Bioscientific Knowledge Regulatory Overhaul Biomedical Firms Intellectual Property Rights Domestic Institutions Knowledge Assets Domestic Research Technology Industries

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