[Ip-health] Dean Baker: US Army-Funded Zika Vaccine Shows the Promise of Government-Contracted Rx Research

Fran Quigley fwquigley at gmail.com
Tue Aug 8 04:50:03 PDT 2017

Dean Baker on how the US Army-funded Zika vaccine research shows the promise of government-funded research:


(S)upporters of the patent system will insist there is no other way to provide companies with an incentive to develop new drugs. This is why the story of the Zika vaccine is so important.

The US Army paid the French drug company Sanofi to develop a vaccine against the disease. While the vaccine still needs to go through further testing, it appears that Sanofi has been successful.
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The public debate has focused on the unfairness of this deal to the US taxpayers and also the risk that Sanofi may price the vaccine out of the reach of many people in the developing world. But the other side of this story deserves at least as much attention.

The pharmaceutical industry and its allies would like us to believe that if the government touches the research process, it wrecks it. 

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But the contract between the Army and Sanofi seems to indicate that government-funded research can provide real dividends. The Army put up the money and told Sanofi what it wanted and it turned out Sanofi was able to deliver.

Why can't we do this on a larger scale, where the government puts up the money for research, companies like Sanofi bid on the contracts? In this world, all the findings are placed in the public domain, so that other researchers can benefit from them. And all the patents are open so that new drugs can be produced as generics. In this case, the next great cancer drug can sell for a few hundred dollars a year instead of a few hundred thousand dollars.

While it should have already been apparent, the Army Sanofi contract provides a great example of how government-funded research was very productive. It should provide a basis for a debate over reforming the incredibly corrupt process of pharmaceutical research.

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