WEDNESDAY, Feb. 9 (HealthDay News) -- A surprising number of
valuable new drugs and vaccines approved in the United States have
arisen wholly from research funded by the public sector, new
The authors of a study published Feb. 10 in the
New England Journal of Medicine count 153 new drugs and
vaccines from public sector research institutes over the past 40
years. They include Remicade (infliximab), considered a giant step
forward in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and other
inflammatory and autoimmune disorders, and Lyrica (pregabalin),
used to treat pain neuropathy, fibromyalgia and pain from
"Not only do federal funding programs, such as those from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, advance the scientific knowledge base of the country, but they contribute practical advances that can help people and create economic opportunity," said study author Ashley J. Stevens, a lecturer at the Boston University School of Medicine and senior research associate at the university's Institute of Technology Entrepreneurship and Commercialization.
Traditionally, publicly funded researchers tended to dig up the
causes and vulnerabilities of a particular disease while the sexier
follow-up of actual drug development was left to pharmaceutical
That apparently has changed, according to the study team, which
included researchers from Norway and from the Office of Technology
Transfer at the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Thanks to legislation passed in 1980, universities, teaching
hospitals, nonprofit research institutes and federal laboratories
could start owning and licensing intellectual property coming from
federally funded research, the authors stated.
This coincided with the boom in biotechnology research, which
made so many new biologic drugs possible.
The 153 new entities identified by the authors included 93
small-molecule drugs, 36 biological agents, 15 vaccines, eight
diagnostic tools and one over-the-counter drug. More than half were
to treat or prevent cancer or infectious diseases. And many were
fast-tracked to approval, suggesting that their effect was
considered substantial. The therapeutic effect of these public
sector-developed drugs will likely be disproportionately large, the
The news comes in the midst of looming concerns about budget
cuts and the future of government-funded research.
"This study helps justify sustained federal support for the NIH," said Jon Retzlaff, managing director of science policy and government affairs at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) in Washington, D.C.
"The AACR is extremely concerned about the current funding environment, and specifically the threats of budget cuts to the NIH and the National Cancer Institute. It is imperative that at this critical juncture Congress not waver in its longstanding commitment to providing the resources and support for research and discovery efforts," he said.
"These are what fuel advances in cancer prevention, diagnosis, care and treatment," he added.
"Long-term flat funding or, worse, a reduction in funds for biomedical research and cancer research will slow research progress and squander invaluable scientific opportunities to the detriment of our nation's health, our fragile economy and our global competitiveness," Retzlaff said.
As legislators try to balance the federal budget, these funds
must not be considered discretionary, he added. "This data shows
that these are part of our economic development," he said.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has more on how
drugs are developed and approved.
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