Advances in immunotherapy are pushing the profiles of companies like Kite Pharma higher, but the New York Times writes that US government researchers are often the ones who do a lot of the work.
For instance, it says that a team at the National Cancer Institute led by Steven Rosenberg developed CAR-T immunotherapy. Now, Kite, which Arie Belldegrun, a former student of Rosenberg's, founded, is paying the lab several millions of dollars to continue its research for the company. According to the Times, Kite is expected to charge $200,000 for the treatment, which patients are expected to only need once.
"The relationship puts American taxpayers squarely in the middle of one of the hottest new drug markets," the Times says. "It also raises a question: Are taxpayers getting a good deal?"
Critics of such deals say that taxpayers wind up paying twice for drugs: once through funding its development and then when they buy it, the Times adds. By contrast, others say that without companies stepping in, government researchers wouldn't be able to bring such treatments to patients.
The Times adds that the National Institutes of Health typically doesn't impose pricing restrictions on its partners, as that might scare them away. The agency also can collect royalties on successful product, it adds, but it notes, though, that NIH generally doesn't strike as hard a deal as academic centers and other companies do.
"We're not preoccupied with financial value," Mark Rohrbaugh, who ran the technology transfer office at NIH for 12 years, says. "Our mission is treatment of people and improving public health."