Patents bring bioscience innovation to life
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
The following Op-Ed was written by Virginia Bio CEO, Jeffrey Gallagher, appeared in the Richmnond Time-Dispatch:
The fundamental goal of the life sciences industry — spanning health, agriculture, medicine, diagnostic, pharmaceutical and food science — is to turn research and innovation into real improvements in the quality and standard of life. Effective patent protection of bioscience innovation is the foundation for all that follows: investment, tech transfer, company formation, development, economic growth, job creation, high wages, improved outcomes and lower costs of health care. For this reason all of us have a stake in an effective patent system, which incentivizes and enables the funding of the breakthroughs that revolutionize how we live our lives.
As the CEO of VirginiaBIO, I lead the premier statewide trade group that promotes the considerable scientific and economic impact of the life sciences industry in Virginia. In many ways we serve as the catalyst for progress, bringing together life science innovators, investors, policymakers and emerging talent within the state. There is a lot going on in our field in Virginia. Our universities, researchers and businesses play an important part in making the U.S. the leader in bioscience innovation. On the horizon we can see improved diagnoses and treatments for cancer, cardiovascular illness and diabetes; fantastic devices to prevent and ameliorate hurtful conditions; and beyond that who knows what else. Effective patent protection is required for these to become reality.
Currently the House Judiciary Committee, led by Virginia’s own Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte, R-6th, is moving ahead with legislation HR 3309 to address the patent troll abuses which famously plague certain industries like IT and electronics. I and many colleagues in the biosciences, however, are deeply concerned that the legislation proposes unnecessarily broad and untested changes in long-used procedures that would unintentionally but significantly harm the innovation/patent-based bioscience industry.
As a former general counsel for a startup specialty pharma company in Virginia, I know firsthand that effective, affordable patent protection is essential to the inventor and entrepreneur to garner the extraordinary investment routinely required to fund many years of complex research and additional years of assuring the FDA of safety and efficacy.
As a former litigator in federal courts, I know the impact that a change of rules and a change in the costs of pursuing a claim can have on whether justice is within practical reach of a litigant who has been wronged, or an unaffordable theoretical possibility. Aspects of the bill as it now stands could significantly increase the cost and time required to enforce a patent and thereby undercut its value, discouraging investment, curtailing tech transfer and crimping the pipeline built over many years that moves innovation from our world-class universities in Virginia to entrepreneurs and experts for scientific and regulatory development, then to the clinic and marketplace. As written, the bill could endanger the bioscience sector’s high rate of job creation and high-paying jobs, and impede innovative life-changing products from reaching patients, improving outcomes and reducing health care costs.
The time horizon and investment requirements of the bioscience industry differ greatly from the IT and electronics world stalked by trolls. We all know that well-intentioned and serious legislation can have equally serious unintended consequences. I encourage members of Congress to put off floor consideration, to continue to obtain citizen input and to carefully consider the concerns raised by national organizations in bioscience commercialization, the higher education community, the American Bar Association and others. There is time to get the legislation right and keep the U.S. patent system the world’s driving force for innovation. It’s too important to the health of our citizens and to the U.S. economy to get it wrong.