As co-authors of the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980, we must comment on the March 27 op-ed article by Peter Arno and Michael Davis about this law.
Government alone has never developed the new advances in medicines and technology that become commercial products. For that, our country relies on the private sector. The purpose of our act was to spur the interaction between public and private research so that patients would receive the benefits of innovative science sooner.
For every $1 spent in government research on a project, at least $10 of industry development will be needed to bring a product to market. Moreover, the rare government-funded inventions that become products are typically five to seven years away from being commercial products when private industry gets involved. This is because almost all universities and government labs are conducting early-stage research.
Bayh-Dole did not intend that government set prices on resulting products. The law makes no reference to a reasonable price that should be dictated by the government. This omission was intentional; the primary purpose of the act was to entice the private sector to seek public-private research collaboration rather than focusing on its own proprietary research.
The article also mischaracterized the rights retained by the government under Bayh-Dole. The ability of the government to revoke a license granted under the act is not contingent on the pricing of a resulting product or tied to the profitability of a company that has commercialized a product that results in part from government-funded research. The law instructs the government to revoke such licenses only when the private industry collaborator has not successfully commercialized the invention as a product.
The law we passed is about encouraging a partnership that spurs advances to help Americans. We are proud to say it's working.
The writers are, respectively, a former Democratic senator from Indiana and a former Republican senator from Kansas.