Making the cut : the rate and direction of CRISPR innovation
Rate and direction of CRISPR innovation
Sloan School of Management.
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This dissertation explores, in real time, key institutional factors contributing to the diffusion and impact of a breakthrough technology from its very first days. The studies combine rigorous quantitative empirical methods with a deep understanding of the institutions of a novel setting that allows for a nuanced picture of the actors, institutions, technologies, and rules necessary to make recommendations on policies and strategies for the diffusion of emerging innovations. The first chapter examines whether the introduction of a breakthrough technology, the CRISPR DNA-editing system, affects the trajectory of a scientific field through project selection and new entry. Using proprietary data from the primary distributor of CRISPR to academic scientists, Addgene, the study shows that the relative proportion of scientists focusing on editing mammalian cells after the introduction of CRISPR increased over their counterparts working in bacteria and other eukaryotes.The shift towards mammalian research may result mostly from entry of new authors. The second chapter (with Neil Thompson), explores whether characteristics of individual scientists who experiment with CRISPR differ from those who incorporate that experimentation into a new project. Using Addgene data we separately observe both groups by matching CRISPR orders to scientists' publication histories. We find that some characteristics (e.g., proximity to the discoverers) do not impact experimentation but do influence the ability to publish, empirically showing that access to a complex new tool does not automatically translate into the ability to use the tool. The third chapter builds on the previous two by noting that many new tools require specialized complementary know-how to be applied effectively and delving into how teams form to acquire that know-how.Teams in any research domain face the tradeoff of either acquiring this know-how themselves or working with scarce external tool specialists who also have a choice over domain teams. CRISPR enables identification of external tool specialists on research teams by exploiting natural difficulties of applying the tool across disease domains. External tool specialists appear more often in teams for difficult diseases, especially in subsequent innovations, suggesting that external tool specialists may be more attracted to complex but influential problems.
Thesis: Ph. D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sloan School of Management, 2019Cataloged from PDF version of thesis.Includes bibliographical references (pages 162-168).
DepartmentSloan School of Management
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Sloan School of Management.