The importance of bringing people together to inform policy is a mainstay of OSP’s policy approach. For instance, as the world’s largest funder of biomedical research, we have been thinking carefully about our role in making federally-funded inventions more accessible to the public – and how to bring all parties to the table to make sure we get it right. The issue of access to new drugs and treatments is of paramount importance to nearly every member of the public, and NIH is key in driving the knowledge underlying their development. However, the ecosystem that supports the process relies on a broader group of actors, including partnerships across academia, non-profits, industry, patient groups, and more to make it a success.
Under this lens, the agency is hosting a workshop on July 31 to discuss NIH policies and practices that shape biomedical innovation and promote equitable access. This is an ideal time to have a transparent and focused discussion on how NIH as a research institution approaches the patenting and licensing of biomedical inventions, especially considering the outsized role we can play in advancing lifesaving treatments and economic growth. For example, a recent study of the NIH intramural research program found that technologies licensed from NIH helped avert over 25,000 deaths from cervical cancer between 2008-2019 while also generating about 75,000 employment positions between 2001-2021. While these numbers are impressive, NIH is concerned about the rising costs of healthcare products, and we equally realize that our agency cannot achieve its mission if people cannot access the products that emerge from our work.
Through this workshop we hope to discuss best practices and lessons learned so that we can continue doing the things that work and course correct the things that are sub-optimal. We will also be excited to hear new ideas from meeting participants about things we could try to enhance the impact of NIH’s patent licensing program. Importantly, we invite public participation in this workshop. The agenda will feature a 45-minute public comment session and NIH will also accept written comments from members of the public both before and after the workshop. Full details including the agenda, webcast information and how to submit public comments can be found on the OSP website. I am looking forward to the discussion and I hope you will be able to join us. By working across disciplines and maintaining open lines of communications with our stakeholders we can improve health, spur innovation, increase equitable access, and fulfill the mission of the NIH.