DC Dispatch

DC Dispatch - January 22, 2016

DC Dispatch

Congressional Request to NIH ‘March-In’ Guidelines

Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) and 50 colleagues have requested: that NIH utilize its Bayh-Dole ‘march-in’ rights as a tool to address rising drug costs (see press release here). From their letter to Secretary Burwell (HHS) and Director Collins (NIH), “[W]e respectfully urge you to utilize your existing statutory authority to respond to the soaring cost of pharmaceuticals. Under certain circumstances, when taxpayer-funded federal research results in a new drug patent, NIH may require the patent-holder to license the federally-funded intellectual property of third parties. In 1980, the Bayh-Dole Act authorized federal agencies that fund private research certain rights in patented inventions, including to assert ‘march-in rights’, under 35 USC 203(a)(2), when ‘action is necessary to alleviate health and safety needs which are not being reasonably satisfied’, or as noted in 35 USC 201(f), when the benefits of the patented product are not ‘available to the public on reasonable terms’. Since NIH has not previously offered official guidance regarding the situations in which ‘march-in rights’ would apply, we believe that reasonable guidelines could discourage drug price gouging. We urge NIH to issue guidelines to accomplish this goal.” See a rebuttal to this argument/letter here. (Original Sources: Rep. Doggett’s web site, IP-Watchdog blog)

Congressman Seeks to Resurrect OTA

Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL) and 14 other members of Congress: recently sent a letter to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) asking him “to reinstate funding for the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA).” From an article in AIP, “[I]n doing so, Foster is perhaps starting a tradition of physicists-turned-politicians attempting to revive the long-mourned OTA, a legislative support agency that provided policy advice to Congress on scientific and technological issues. Previous efforts were led by another Ph.D. physicist and former Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), now CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Congress established OTA in 1972 to serve as a source of independent advice on technical subjects, in part to avoid relying on federal agencies for such information. During its 22 years of existence, OTA staff produced approximately 750 reports on subjects ranging from manufacturing automation to high-temperature superconductivity to health care reform. At the end of its lifespan, OTA had approximately 200 staff and an annual budget of $22 million. Although OTA had developed a reputation for producing authoritative reports, a Republican-controlled Congress led by Speaker Newt Gingrich defunded OTA in 1995 in a move branded as a cost-cutting measure.” (Original Sources: AIP web site)

National Academies Report on the STTR Program

STTR: An Assessment of the Small Business Technology Transfer Program, responds to a Congressional mandate during the SBIR/STTR reauthorization of 2011 for the National Academies to report on various aspects of the STTR program. The report focuses on the STTR programs at five agencies (DOD, DOE, NIH, NSF and NASA). As noted in the summary, “[F]or fiscal year (FY) 2015, funding was approximately $2.17 billion for SBIR, compared to approximately $263 million for STTR. While STTR is dwarfed in size by SBIR (agency budgets for SBIR are seven or eight times larger than those for the STTR), the Small Business Administration views STTR as a vehicle to expand funding opportunities in the federal innovation R&D arena. In particular, STTR is expected to combine the strengths of research institutions and small firms by introducing entrepreneurial skills to high-tech research efforts. This design has sought to assist the transfer of technologies and products from the laboratory to the marketplace.” See the report for key findings and recommendations (scroll to the bottom for chapter links). (Original Sources: NA web site)

Research on Prize Competitions and Innovation

In 2010 the administration launched: Challenge.gov – an “online portal for federal agencies to engage the public to offer solutions that address issues of national priority in return for monetary and non-monetary prizes.” From a post in SSTI, “[S]ince its launch in 2010, more than 80 federal agencies have run nearly 500 competitions and awarded upwards of $150 million in prizes. Challenge.gov is one of the most well-known examples of this growing trend in government and foundation funding. In addition to Challenge.gov, U.S. states, local governments, and foundations have announced similar prize competitions to help address important societal and S&T issues. While innovation prize competitions have become a popular funding mechanism, proponents and critics remain split on the success of these competitions in spurring innovation. In an attempt to understand the impacts of prize competitions on innovation, several recent academic research articles have been released to provide empirical evidence about these prize competitions.” See the post for links to the several studies highlighted. (Original Sources: SSTI web site)

State of the Union and Innovation

The White House has outlined: a series of four basic issues addressed in the President’s recent State of the Union address. From a White House blog post titled Back to Work: What Comes after the President’s Final State of the Union Address, the White House lays out a long list of administrative initiatives that will be the focus of the President’s final year in office. The list includes ongoing activities (highlighting accomplishments) and suggesting new efforts to be unveiled. One section is titled “The Spirit of Innovation” and contains a broad list of activities undertaken by the Administration over the past 7 years, with an indication of where the effort will be in these areas over the coming months. (Original Sources: White House blog)

(Another) FY 2016 Appropriations Update

AIP has compiled: some FY 2016 budget stats for S&T spending. From the web post, “[T]he annual spending law that funds the federal science agencies, offices, and accounts through the end of fiscal year 2016 provides significant growth for the physical sciences.” You can compare these to what AAAS has already reported for agency R&D spending levels for FY 2016 (see Dispatch 12-23-15, and DC on TT posted 1-12-16). As reported elsewhere, with several notable exceptions, federal funding for S&T is trending upward (i.e., in the right direction). (Original Sources: AIP web site)

More “Look Back” and “Look Ahead”

Top Five Patent Stories as reported on PatentDocs (a biotech and pharma patent laws and news blog) in 2015 that they “believe had (or are likely to have) the greatest impact on patent practitioners and applicants.” Includes stories on stories on Akami v. Limelight, Alice v. CLS, Amgen v. Sandoz, Ariosa v. Sequenom, and USPTO expansion of subject matter eligibility. (Original Sources: PatentDocs web site)

Six Technologies That Will Define 2016, by Vivek Wadhwa, notes “[T]his year will be the beginning of an even bigger revolution [note: see Dispatch 1-8-16 for his take on 2015], one that will change the way we live, let us visit new worlds, and lead us into a jobless future. Yes, with every good there is a bad; wonderful things will become possible, but with them we will also create new problems for mankind. Here are six of the technologies that will make this happen, and the good they will do …” His list of six includes artificial intelligence, robots, self-driving cars, virtual reality and holodecks, the internet of things and space. (Original Sources: Washington Post web site)

Science Policy in 2015: A Year in Review, posted by AIP, highlights the top science policy stories of 2015, on a month-by-month basis. They note, “[T]he biggest story in science policy in 2015 was the unexpectedly large boosts in science funding in Congress’ annual spending bill for FY 2016, some of which matched or exceeded the President’s budget request and even requests from the scientific community.” They go on to provide a comprehensive list of related stories for the past calendar year. (Original Sources: AIP web site)


Note: The DC Dispatch is a periodic update of selected items of interest to the FLC and technology transfer community – i.e., current legislation, trends, reports, policy and other developments potentially affecting technology transfer or related activities – designed to keep the community informed of relevant issues on a timely basis. Information is gleaned directly from a variety of sources (newsletters, email alerts, web sites, direct participation at events from the FLC DC Representative’s office, etc.) – with original sources, contacts and links provided.

Contact:Gary K. Jones, FLC DC Representative, gkjones.ctr@federallabs.org

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