/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Consumer Watchdog today praised President Obama for lifting Bush era restrictions on federal funding of stem cell research and called on him to implement further policy changes that would allow taxpayers to share in any profits from research they have funded.
In a letter to President Obama, the nonpartisan nonprofit Consumer Watchdog said policies developed by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), which runs the state's $6 billion stem cell research program, could be a model for federal policy.
"Your action will undoubtedly spur new gains in this vital area of medical research," wrote John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog's Stem Cell Project director. "Celebrating the change in policy is not enough, however. It is now necessary, more than ever, to examine the regulations governing the way federal funds are distributed to researchers. A change in those rules is needed and we call on you to work with Congress to implement reform of the Bayh-Dole Act."
Most of the federal funding for biomedical research is funneled through the National Institutes of Health. Basic scientific research is usually done at universities and non-profit research institutions, most of it with federal funds. Under the Bayh-Dole Act discoveries that are made at these institutions can be patented by them. They then license the patents to industry. The royalties go only to the universities and research institutions. Nothing is returned to the taxpaying public who funded the research.
"Under Bayh-Dole, the public pays twice for medical discoveries," said Simpson, "First we fund the research; then we are faced with high drug prices protected by the monopoly that the patent guarantees."
Consumer Watchdog said federal policies for public funding of scientific research should incorporate these four principles:
--When a discovery has been funded by the public, the public should share in any profits.
--If the public has paid for key discoveries, then government policies should guarantee affordable access to cures and treatments resulting from those discoveries.
--If the government has funded an invention, but the patent holder does not commercialize it, the government should be able to license the invention to someone who will.
--The results of all federally funded research should be available to all U.S. researchers for further research without a licensing fee. Once taxpayers pay to develop a technology, all researchers should have free access to it for further non-commercial research.
"When venture capitalists provide money to companies they require clearly spelled out conditions and expectations," said Simpson. "There is no reason it should be any different when taxpayers put their hard-earned dollars on the line to fund research."
The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) was created by the voters of California under Proposition 71 to partially fill the void created when President Bush imposed the stem cell funding restrictions. Its $6 billion program makes it the world's largest funder of stem cell research.
Key elements of its Intellectual Property Policy regulations are provisions for a payback to the state. For example, if there is revenue to a research institution as the result of publicly funded research, 25 percent goes back to the state's general fund. The IP policy also has provisions to help ensure affordability and access by uninsured people to cures and treatments that were developed with public money.