The Bayh-Dole system keeps rolling – despite attempts to derail it
“Our public and private sector R&D alliances have led the world to develop much-needed vaccines and therapies to help the world fight the COVID-19 pandemic. You might think that our patent-based technology transfer system would be widely acclaimed. Unfortunately, it is not the case. »
How about some good economic news? That’s rare these days when the country is on the brink of recession, driven by runaway inflation and soaring gasoline prices. But in good times and bad, our technology transfer system created by the Bayh-Dole law continues to work.
A study just released by the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) and AUTM, which represents the academic technology management profession, shows that academic patent licensing has contributed up to $1.9 trillion to the American economy while supporting 6.5 million jobs between 1996 and 2020. Even more impressively, this impact has increased considerably since the last survey was published three years ago. This showed an economic impact of $1.7 trillion with 5.9 million jobs supported.
We should also remember that the new study includes the COVID-19 year of 2020, when the US economy was largely shut down. According to the AUTM licensing survey for 2020 alone:
- A record 1,117 start-ups were created around academic inventions—an average of three every day of the year, 69% of which are in the home state of the inventing organization
- 933 new products were created—an average of 2.55 every day of the year
- There was a 6.8% increase in patent disclosures over the previous year, and
- 10,050 licenses and options have been executed. About 70% of these licenses go to small businesses
And beyond these impressive numbers, our public and private sector R&D alliances have led the world to develop much-needed vaccines and therapies to help the world fight the COVID-19 pandemic. You might think that our patent-based technology transfer system would be widely acclaimed. Unfortunately, it is not the case. Consider this, by Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz, in The Washington Post:
The patent system
The coronavirus has provided critical evidence that our current patent system, especially for lifesaving products such as vaccines and drugs, should be abandoned. Its design is simply inadequate for the 21st century, and it has hampered our response to the pandemic. While the patent system has earned pharmaceutical companies billions of dollars, it has hampered the production of vaccines, contributing greatly to their lack of availability in developing countries and emerging markets, and providing many opportunities for the virus. to mutate into the most contagious, dangerous, and vaccine-resistant variants we’ve seen.
And we, the public, pay fourfold: we paid for the basic research that enabled the development of the mRNA vaccine; we have provided massive assistance to help pharmaceutical companies bring vaccines to market; we pay high prices for vaccines and other medicines in public and in private; and now that the disease has spread, we are paying continued health and economic costs.
Patents are a social construct — laws we make for the betterment of society, not just for the benefit of an individual. But it is also a prize, intended to reward and encourage innovative activity. However, this is a very ill-conceived price – the allocation of monopoly right that works by limiting production and raising prices. This is the antithesis of what we should want, ie the widest dissemination of the benefits of innovation.
There are alternatives beyond public funding of drug research and testing, such as a state-funded monetary prize for scientists who succeed in making life-saving drugs and vaccines. For years, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has introduced legislation to this end, and discussions have taken place at the World Health Organization about how such a system could be implemented in the United States. global scale. It is high time.
Putting drug development under the control of Washington politicians – what could go wrong with that? Apparently, Dr. Stiglitz missed seeing our public and private sectors come together seamlessly to develop world-saving vaccines and therapies in record time to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps his next study should be an examination of the number of new drugs coming from countries without strong patent systems. This might be the shortest article Dr. Stiglitz has ever written.
Patents as scapegoats
But unfortunately, he is not alone. As reported in IP Watchdog, the 12e The Ministerial Conference seems determined to blame patents for the inoculation problems of COVID-19 vaccines in developing countries, even if the culprit is the inability to distribute the vaccines they already have. “Twenty-nine African countries have used less than half of their available stocks, according to the World Health Organization,” wrote Bloomberg News.
So, for the sake of virtue, the US government is considering donating key technologies like mRNA that hold the key to keeping our life science industry at the forefront. It was developed through the blood, sweat and tears of public sector researchers in collaboration with companies like Moderna who had no revenue from mRNA for a decade, but were determined to keep the project going. life because of his promise. Fortunately, they were in the right place at the right time when their nation came to implore them to develop an effective COVID-19 vaccine. Now, rather than mercy, they are portrayed as villains. Why should other companies consider the government as a reliable R&D partner after this posting?
We also have continued pressure on the National Institutes of Health from progressive politicians to abuse the Bayh-Dole entry fee provision so that the government can set drug prices based on Federally Funded Inventions. As we’ve said many times, that’s just not how the law works.
stay on track
If we’ve learned anything in recent years, it’s that the systems we rely on to sustain our nation can only withstand so much abuse and neglect before they begin to crumble. With so much off track, policymakers in Washington should have plenty to work on these days. The last thing we need is to get on board with our international competitors’ efforts to gain access to key technologies through WTO agreements or to drive a wedge between our public and private sectors to impose micro-government of innovation.
We have clear evidence that the Bayh-Dole system works, if we bother to look.
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