The Bayh-Dole Act: 30 Years of Innovation

At Emory’s recent Fourth Celebration of Technology and Innovation, faculty researchers and entrepreneurs were recognized for outstanding accomplishments in developing promising technologies that are moving from the laboratory to the marketplace.

Keynote speaker for the annual event was Joseph Allen, a key staff member in helping Senator Birch Bayh (D-IN) secure passage of the Bayh-Dole Act 30 years ago, opening up collaborations between research universities and U.S. industry.

Todd Sherer, executive director of Emory’s Technology Transfer Office, described Emory’s robust product pipeline, which includes products at all stages of development and regulatory approval. The pipeline helps ensure multiple missions of driving academic discoveries, advancing commercially protected technologies, and providing substantial public benefit.

Emory President James Wagner emphasized that Emory has been successful in both research and tech transfer, with an 18 percent rise in external research funding and a 24 percent rise in licensing agreements last year because the University gets research and tech transfer right, and our faculty understand the purpose of both activities.

“We understand that we have a role to play in utilizing investments in the service of humanity,” Wagner said. We also understand that money is an important metric, but not the primary goal, he emphasized. “We understand despite old academic biases and temptations for riches, that research and tech transfer fit into Emory’s mission in the context of service and social action, which come from our vision statement.”

The bi-partisan Bayh-Dole Act was based on government funding university research, creating conditions and policies, then letting inventors and universities make deals, take risks, and move their discoveries into the marketplace. This benefits inventors, universities, and industry, creates companies and jobs, and moves products into the marketplace where they can benefit patients and physicians.

Before Bayh-Dole, Allen said, the government was the owner of any discoveries based on research it had funded. This provided no incentive for industry development of university discoveries because industry investments could not be protected, and the losers were the American taxpayers.  Not a single drug had ever been commercialized from federally funded research before Bayh-Dole, and now 153 new drugs, vaccines and devices are in the marketplace from university discoveries, including the leading AIDS drugs invented by Emory scientists.  More than 6,500 new companies have been formed as a result of Bayh-Dole, including 47 companies created from Emory research.

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