US: Public sector research produces valuable drugs

New research finds that a surprising number of valuable new drugs and vaccines approved in the United States have arisen wholly from research funded by the public sector, writes Amanda Gardner for Bloomberg Businessweek.

The authors of a study published on 10 February in the New England Journal of Medicine count 153 new drugs and vaccines from public sector research institutes over the past 40 years. "Not only do federal funding programmes, such as those from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, advance the scientific knowledge base of the country, but they contribute practical advances that can help people and create economic opportunity," said study author Ashley J Stevens, a lecturer at the Boston University School of Medicine and senior research associate at the university's Institute of Technology Entrepreneurship and Commercialisation.

Traditionally, publicly funded researchers tended to dig up the causes and vulnerabilities of a particular disease while the sexier follow-up of actual drug development was left to pharmaceutical companies. That apparently has changed. Thanks to legislation passed in 1980, universities, teaching hospitals, non-profit research institutes and federal laboratories could start owning and licensing intellectual property coming from federally funded research, the authors stated.
Full report on the Businessweek site