The Bayh-Dole Act turned 40 on Saturday. Here’s what to know about the landmark 1980 law—and how it’s fostering biomedical innovation.
In a nutshell, the bipartisan Patent and Trademark Law Amendments Act (a.k.a. Bayh-Dole):
- Empowers universities, small businesses, and non-profit institutions to take ownership of inventions made with federally funded research, so they can license these inventions for further applied R&D and broader public use.
- Encourages the private-sector investment needed to turn basic government-funded biomedical research into tested and approved products that benefit patients, requires these products to be manufactured domestically, and ensures royalties for universities to further advance basic research and education.
Just look at the numbers: “Bayh-Dole has spurred 13,000 startups, resulted in more than 100,000 new patents, and led to the disclosure of more than 420,000 inventions just from 1996-2017,” reported Bloomberg Law—as well as some 300 drugs on the market.
And the law is more important than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic, as it “helped set the stage for the public-private partnerships that are essential to developing a vaccine and effective treatments against the novel coronavirus,” explained the law’s co-author Sen. Bob Dole (R-KS) in Roll Call.
Drug manufacturers are pouring billions of dollars into turning basic science from federally funded research into potential vaccines, treatments, and diagnostics, as we’ve explained.
But some want the federal government to wrongly use it to “march in” and seize the patents on these drugs, sending “a chilling message to companies in every industry—don’t bother investing billions of R&D dollars to turn federally funded inventions into real-life, market-ready products, since the government will just steal the fruit of your labor,” wrote David Winwood, an expert in university technology transfer, in The Washington Times.
Laws and protections like Bayh-Dole have helped us “live healthier, more prosperous lives,” concluded Winwood. “We should nurture this innovation—not squash it by inappropriate use of march-in rights.”
For more information on Bayh-Dole and why it matters, visit bayhdole40.org or check out our infographic.
More Health Care News:
Bloomberg: First COVID vaccines’ triumph raises hope for cancer fight
“‘We are now entering the age of mRNA therapeutics,’ said Derrick Rossi, a former Harvard University stem-cell biologist who helped found Moderna in 2010.”