Research grants issued by the National Institutes of Health contribute to a significant number of private-sector patents in biomedicine, according to a new study coauthored by an MIT professor.
The study, published in Science, examines 27 years’ worth of data and finds that 31 percent of NIH grants, which are publicly funded, produce articles that are later cited by patents in the biomedical sector.
“The impact on the private sector is a lot more important in magnitude than what we might have thought before,” says coauthor Pierre Azoulay, a Sloan professor. And as the paper explains, even NIH-backed research projects cited only indirectly in later patents “demonstrate the additional reach that publicly funded science can have by building a foundation for private-sector R&D.”
After reviewing over 365,000 grants—nearly every NIH grant awarded between 1980 and 2007—the researchers also found that more than 8 percent of NIH grants generate a patent directly.
Intriguingly, the researchers discovered no significant difference between “basic” and “applied” research grants in the frequency with which they helped generate patents; both kinds of research spill over into productive private-sector uses.
“If you thought the NIH exists in an ivory tower, you’re wrong,” Azoulay says. “They are the nexus of knowledge that really unifies two worlds.”
The NIH encompasses multiple research institutes and is the world’s biggest source of public funding for biomedical research, dispensing about $32 billion annually in grants. “Grants produce papers, and papers are cited by patents [generated] by pharmaceutical firms,” says Azoulay. “It’s hard to think of [a drug] that doesn’t have a patent."
These weird virtual creatures evolve their bodies to solve problems
They show how intelligence and body plans are closely linked—and could unlock AI for robots.
Surgeons have successfully tested a pig’s kidney in a human patient
The test, in a brain-dead patient, was very short but represents a milestone in the long quest to use animal organs in human transplants.
A horrifying new AI app swaps women into porn videos with a click
Deepfake researchers have long feared the day this would arrive.
The covid tech that is intimately tied to China’s surveillance state
Heat-sensing cameras and face recognition systems may help fight covid-19—but they also make us complicit in the high-tech oppression of Uyghurs.
Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review
Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.