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June 15, 2005

Biotechnology Products and University-Based Science

Author Affiliations

Letters Section Editor: Robert M. Golub, MD, Senior Editor.

JAMA. 2005;293(23):2861-2863. doi:10.1001/jama.293.23.2862-b

To the Editor: Drs Kesselheim and Avorn1 argue that broad ownership rights to basic biological information will stimulate investment in academic research and permit institutions to share in revenues from downstream pharmaceutical or biotechnology products. We believe that the authors’ policy analysis rests on arguable assumptions.

First, the primary goal of the Bayh-Dole Act was to stimulate commercial development of academic discoveries, not to enhance university revenues. Indeed, National Institutes of Health (NIH) support to medical schools and hospitals ($12 billion) in 2003 exceeded by 10-fold the Association of University Technology Managers’ reported total licensing income accruing to universities.2 Such public funding is predicated on the concept that basic research is a public good, not effectively appropriable by private interests or markets.

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