[Ip-health] George Smith, the 2018 Nobel Laureate for Chemistry, takes stance against allowing publicly funded research to be intellectual property

James Love james.love at keionline.org
Thu Apr 11 20:48:06 PDT 2019


Nobel laureate takes stance against allowing research to be intellectual

The Auburn Plainsman



George Smith, recipient of a 2018 Nobel Prize for Chemistry, spoke to a
crowd of students and faculty about the problems that arise from making
publicly funded research intellectual property.

Smith said one of the greatest problems facing the scientific research
community is the ability of universities to claim intellectual property
rights on publicly funded research.

“I think that all research ought not to have intellectual — not to be
intellectual property,” Smith said. “It’s the property of everyone.”

He said this is especially a problem in drug research and development.

According to Smith, Humira, an antibody treatment for arthritis and certain
autoimmune diseases, emerged from decades of publicly funded scientific
research, like the discovery of Humira’s target antigen, TNF alpha. The
drug is sold at retail price to U.S. consumers for around $30,000 a year.

Despite this research being publicly funded, we have one company that owns
the ability to price that drug, Smith said. He said he believes society is
within its rights to demand more equitable distribution of the research
they have paid for.

After the talk, Smith told The Plainsman the Bayh-Dole Act, a law passed in
1980 that allowed universities to pursue patent rights, restricts the
possibilities of scientific research.

“It skews research towards things that happen to be monetizable, and makes
things that aren’t monetizable downplayed,” Smith said.

He said the Bayh-Dole Act helped Humira gain patent rights to the drug,
allowing them to charge their high prices.

This also gets rid of the incentive to do research on drugs similar to the
Hepatitis C cure, Smith said. One-time use drugs don’t create a consumer
base like Humira, which needs to be taken twice a week for the rest of
one’s life.

“I think we should not have a prejudice against cures as opposed to
treatments,” Smith said.

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Trice Brown | Campus Reporter

James Love.  Knowledge Ecology International
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