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From Grants to Patents

Nearly a third of US-funded biomedical studies are later cited in patents, Nature News reports.

A trio of researchers analyzed 27 years' worth of NIH grants and patent data to examine links between basic research and economic activity. The team reports in Science this week that 10 percent of National Institutes of Health grants directly lead to a patent, but 30 percent lead to papers that patents cite.

In particular, of the more than 365,000 grants the researchers examined, about 30,800 led to papers cited by patents and 112,400 produced research cited by about 81,500 patents in aggregate, the researchers report. They add that basic and applied research were equally likely to be cited by patents.

"Just because a grant doesn't seem to scream, 'I'm going to be extremely commercially relevant' or 'I'm going to cure cancer' doesn't mean it might not cure cancer," study co-author Danielle Li from Harvard Business School tells Nature News.

Nature News notes that the study comes at a "pivotal moment" as the Trump administration has proposed cutting the NIH budget by nearly 20 percent for fiscal year 2018 and has suggested that $1.2 billion could be cut from its budget this year.

"Their findings here demonstrate that there is commercial value to funding basic science," Ross DeVol from the Milken Institute adds. "That may be the most important piece of this, to be quite frank."