Saturday, June 03, 2006

Can CIRM Help Reduce Health Care Costs?

Suggestions that the California stem cell agency create a patent pool received renewed support recently in an article that said the state has a "unique opportunity to create a climate that will not only be hospitable to innovation but also simultaneously deliver affordable medicine."

Merrill Goozner, director of the Integrity in Science Project at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, pitched his patent pool idea again in an article on PloS Medicine. The piece is titled "Innovation in Biomedicine: Can Stem Cell Research Lead the Way to Affordability?"(See the "over the top" item below for quite a different view.)

Goozner wrote that the maze of medical patents has played a significant role in increasing costs because of the "exclusive rights/high prices model" of conventional markets. He said:
"CIRM and other stem cell funders can become catalysts for cutting through this patent thicket. They can require that all grant recipients agree to donate the exclusive license to any insights, materials, and technologies that they patent to a common patent pool supervised by a new, nonprofit organization set up for that purpose. A patent pool serves as a one-stop shop where investigators can obtain no-cost or low-cost licenses for subsequent research. Patent pools have been successfully used in other high-technology industries such as consumer electronics and software to facilitate the development of new technologies that either require common standards or rest on a common base of basic research. Several patent law firms and close observers of medical research have suggested that patent pools can work in biomedicine."
Goozner also suggested that a prize could be used as a stimulus.
"A government body such as CIRM could establish a major prize for companies and institutions that collaborate to produce a successful stem cell therapy. The prize would have to be large enough to justify the substantial investment required to carry out the final stages of research. It would also have to be large enough to share with the upstream patent holders whose basic and applied research became part of the pool that led to the new therapy. One could imagine prizes in the billions of dollars based on considerations such as the prevalence and public health impact of the disease, the difficulty in developing its cure, and the capital investment required to achieve results. A prize system has been proposed at the federal level."
Goozner continued,
"By combining a patent pool, an open-source model of IP development, and a shared prize system for developing stem cell therapies, the California state stem cell program can point the way to a new medical innovation system for the 21st century. This model could be used by all advanced industrial economies grappling with how to pay for the rising cost of the new medical technologies sought by their ill and aging populations."
Goozner pushed his patent pool concept at a hearing last fall conducted by State Sen. Deborah Ortiz, D-Sacramento. The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights of Santa Monica, Ca., has advanced it during IP hearings by CIRM. Sphere: Related Content

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