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Analysis Examines NIH Funding Toward Drug Development, Patents

Researchers from Bentley University and the consulting firm Exponent report that though the US National Institutes of Health provided billions in funding research toward drug development, only a portion of that agency-funded research is represented on patents that provide drug developers with market exclusivity. This, they add, shows the limits of the Bayh-Dole Act, which oversees those patents with the aim of protecting the public interest in taxpayer-funded research. In PLOS One, the researchers examined 313 drugs approved by the US Food and Drug Administration between 2010 and 2019 to find that NIH provided $164 billion in funding toward research related to the drugs before their approval. But they also found that only 0.59 percent of that funding was associated with the patents in the DrugPatentWatch database. "We know that NIH funding supports approximately half of the cost of research and development leading to new drugs," author Fred Ledley, the director of the Center for Integration of Science and Industry at Bentley, says in a statement. "This new research shows that very little of the taxpayer contribution to new drug approvals is subject to laws designed to protect the public interest and ensure an equitable balance between the interests of the public and those of commercial manufacturers."