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Many Breakthrough Drugs Come From Publicly Funded Research: Study
Date:2/9/2011

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 9 (HealthDay News) -- A surprising number of valuable new drugs and vaccines approved in the United States have arisen wholly from research funded by the public sector, new research finds.

The authors of a study published Feb. 10 in the New England Journal of Medicine count 153 new drugs and vaccines from public sector research institutes over the past 40 years. They include Remicade (infliximab), considered a giant step forward in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory and autoimmune disorders, and Lyrica (pregabalin), used to treat pain neuropathy, fibromyalgia and pain from shingles.

"Not only do federal funding programs, such as those from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, advance the scientific knowledge base of the country, but they contribute practical advances that can help people and create economic opportunity," said study author Ashley J. Stevens, a lecturer at the Boston University School of Medicine and senior research associate at the university's Institute of Technology Entrepreneurship and Commercialization.

Traditionally, publicly funded researchers tended to dig up the causes and vulnerabilities of a particular disease while the sexier follow-up of actual drug development was left to pharmaceutical companies.

That apparently has changed, according to the study team, which included researchers from Norway and from the Office of Technology Transfer at the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Thanks to legislation passed in 1980, universities, teaching hospitals, nonprofit research institutes and federal laboratories could start owning and licensing intellectual property coming from federally funded research, the authors stated.

This coincided with the boom in biotechnology research, which made so many new biologic drugs possible.

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