Op-Ed: Proposed Bayh-Dole policy change hurts patients

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Innovation is critical to patients. When I first started my statewide organization, the Arizona Myeloma Network, treatments were mostly done by trial-and-error. Today, advancements such as novel therapies, stem cell transplantation, and CAR T-Cell treatments have brought about so much hope for those who have been diagnosed with multiple-myeloma. That is why it is disappointing to see leadership in Washington create a massive roadblock to these innovations with their recent proposal to reinterpret the Bayh-Dole Act.

For background, the Bayh-Dole Act was a bipartisan agreement which was enacted in 1980 and gave universities, non-profit research institutions and small businesses the right to own, patent and commercialize inventions developed under federally-funded research programs. This applied to biotech, as well as other industries such as aerospace and renewable energy. As part of the agreement, the federal government could exercise “march-in” authority and essentially take back a patent and re-license it under extreme circumstances, such as if the patent was not being used in a timely manner or there was a public emergency. In 43 years, under Presidents from both parties, this “march-in” authority has never been used. Now the Biden administration wants to overstep their authority and let the government “march-in” for any number of circumstances, including pricing. It’s completely misguided and would not only create a dangerous precedent, but would do tremendous harm to the industries effected.

The Bayh-Dole Act essentially started the biotech industry as we know it. It created an environment where competition and research and development lead to new treatments and ultimately, to cures. It is a cycle that has, according to studies, contributed nearly $2 trillion in U.S. economic output. But most importantly, it has led to tremendous innovation for patients who need these advancements for treatment. As we enter 2024, we need to come together for cancer patients. My organization is doing this by launching our new online Cancer Caregivers program. I hope the Biden Administration reverses their position on this and that our state’s U.S. Senators, Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly, do their part by opposing this policy.

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