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About the Author(s)

Heidi Williams

Heidi Williams is a research associate in the NBER's Aging, Health Care, and Productivity Programs. She is an associate professor of economics at MIT, and is currently Trione Visiting Associate Professor at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. She is co-editor of the Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Her research focuses on investigating the causes and consequences of technological change, with a particular focus on health care markets. Williams received her AB in mathematics from Dartmouth College in 2003, her MSc in development economics from Oxford University in 2004, and her PhD in economics from Harvard in 2010. Her research has received support from the National Institutes of Health and an NSF CAREER grant, among others, and she has received a Sloan Research Fellowship and a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship.

Williams grew up in North Dakota, but has most recently been living in Cambridge and Palo Alto with her husband and two young sons.


1. B. Hall, A. Jaffe, and M. Trajtenberg, "The NBER Patent Citation Data File:Lessons, Insights, and Methodological Tools," NBER Working Paper No. 8498, October 2001, and in A. Jaffe and M. Trajtenberg, eds., Patents, Citations, and Innovations, Cambridge, Massachusetts, The MIT Press, 2002.   Go to ⤴︎
2. E. Budish, B. Roin, and H. Williams, "Do Firms Underinvest in Long-Term Research? Evidence From Cancer Clinical Trials," NBER Working Paper No. 19430, September 2013, and American Economic Review, 105(7), 2015, pp. 2044-85.   Go to ⤴︎
3. H. Williams, "Intellectual Property Rights and Innovation: Evidence From the Human Genome," NBER Working Paper No. 16213, July 2010, and Journal of Political Economy, 121(1), 2013, pp. 1-27; B. Sampat and H. Williams, "How Do Patents Affect Follow-On Innovation? Evidence From the Human Genome," NBER Working Paper No. 21666, October 2015, and American Economic Review, 109(1), 2019, pp. 203-36.   Go to ⤴︎
4. Ibid, NBER Working Paper No. 19430.   Go to ⤴︎
5. See, e.g., J. Stein, "Agency, Information, and Corporate Investment," NBER Working Paper No. 8342, June 2001, and in G. Constantinides, M. Harris, and R. Stulz, eds., Handbook of the Economics of Finance, Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Elsevier B.V., (1A), 2003, pp. 111-65; J. Stein, Quarterly Journal of Economics, 104(4), 1989, pp. 655-69.   Go to ⤴︎
6. For one recent paper that is an exception to this statement, see A. Galasso and M. Schankerman, "Patents and Cumulative Innovation: Causal Evidence From the Courts," NBER Working Paper No. 20269, July 2014, and Quarterly Journal of Economics, 130 (1), 2015, pp. 317-69.   Go to ⤴︎
7. International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium, "Initial Sequencing and Analysis of the Human Genome," Nature, 409(6822), 2001, pp. 860-21; J. Venter, et al., "The Sequence of the Human Genome," Science, 291(5507), 2001, pp. 1304-51.   Go to ⤴︎
8. "Human Genomes, Public and Private," Nature, 409(6822), 2001, p. 745.   Go to ⤴︎
9. Ibid, NBER Working Paper No. 16213, January 2013.   Go to ⤴︎
10. Ibid, NBER Working Paper No. 21666, August 2018 and American Economic Review, 109(1), 2019, pp. 203-36. Go to ⤴︎
11. The lower line in Figure 2 shows that genes that were never included in any patent applications were the subject of many fewer clinical trials over this entire period, suggesting that — perhaps unsurprisingly — there was positive selection of genes into patent applications.   Go to ⤴︎
12. J. Farre-Mensa, D. Hegde, and A. Ljungqvist, "What Is a Patent Worth? Evidence From the U.S. Patent 'Lottery'," NBER Working Paper No. 23268, December 2018; P. Kline, N. Petkova, H. Williams, and O. Zidar, "Who Profits from Patents? Rent-Sharing at Innovative Firms," NBER Working Paper No. 25245, November 2018, and forthcoming in the Quarterly Journal of Economics; P. Gaule, "Patents and the Success of Venture-Capital Backed Startups: Using Examiner Assignment to Estimate Causal Effects," 2015, unpublished CERGE-EI Working Paper, Series No. 546; J. Feng and X. Jaravel, "Crafting Intellectual Property Rights: Implications for Patent Assertion Entities, Litigation, and Innovation," 2016, unpublished Harvard mimeo. Go to ⤴︎


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