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25 years later, 1980 Bayh-Dole act honored as foundation of an industry

The building of biotech
25 years later, 1980 Bayh-Dole act honored as foundation of an industry
Bernadette Tansey, Chronicle Staff Writer

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Philadelphia -- In 1980, Birch Bayh, a veteran Indiana senator, was defeated after serving 18 years in a job he loved. But in the final hour of a lame-duck session held after the election he lost, he managed to squeak a last bill through Congress.

Twenty five years later, Bayh is being hailed as a visionary whose hard- won legislation helped create the biotechnology industry by spawning a whole generation of scientist-entrepreneurs.

The Bayh-Dole act allowed universities and their faculty members to stake patent claims on discoveries they made through research funded by such federal agencies as the National Institutes of Health, instead of leaving ownership of the intellectual property with the government.

That change accelerated the use of academic breakthroughs like gene splicing to develop biotech drugs and other products, giving rise to a three- way partnership of government, universities and startup firms that is "the envy of every nation,'' said Biogen Idec Inc. Chief Executive Officer James Mullen.

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