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The Government Role in Civilian Technology: Building a New Alliance
as important in biotechnology as in other sectors since products are often made by biological organisms, which are difficult to reproduce.
Role of university scientists in the licensing process: University researchers who direct scientific projects often have insights about the selection of companies for licensing agreements. Participants noted that these researchers should be consulted early in the licensing process.
Product liability insurance: The high cost of liability insurance makes it difficult for universities to license innovations to small companies, particularly in biotechnology. According to several participants at the workshop, some universities support remedial product liability legislation to reduce potential damages in these situations.
Biological materials: Restricting the transfer of biological materials to other scientists was described as counterproductive to the goal of technology transfer.
The Role of NIH in the Transfer of Biotechnology
NIH has played an important role in the development and transfer of biotechnology products and manufacturing processes. The agency invests about $3.5 billion on biotechnology-related R&D, approximately 80 percent of the total spent by the federal government in this area. Approximately one-third of the $3.5 billion is spent on biotechnology-specific research; the remainder supports basic scientific research with wide biomedical applications.
NIH has several in-house units dedicated specifically to technology transfer. One is the Patent Policy Board, which has a number of working subcommittees, including one that reviews CRADA proposals and a second that focuses on royalty distribution. In addition, each of the agency's institutes has a technology development coordinator responsible for monitoring CRADA documentation and acting as a liaison with private firms on technology transfer activities.
NIH representatives at the workshop expressed the view that CRADAs are a productive method for small biotechnology firms to leverage internal R&D resources. The agency has approximately 130 CRADAs in place, of which approximately one-third are with small businesses. NIH also facilitates technology transfer by licensing patented materials and by training postdoctoral students and research fellows. NIH researchers are responsible for the publication of approximately 7,000 technical journal articles each year, as well as presentations at scientific workshops. Both of these activities involve technology transfer objectives.
It was reported that NIH also operates an electronic bulletin board containing lists of technologies available for licensing (identified and sorted by key words and names of researchers interested in collaborating) and that it