A Public-Private Enterprise: Why Intellectual Property is a Mainstay at Academic Hospitals

More than 30 years ago, two former senators, Birch Bayh of Indiana and Bob Dole of Kansas, drafted legislation that changed how medical inventions and best practices were shared within the healthcare industry.

The Bayh-Dole Act essentially allowed teaching hospitals — as well as universities and other major research organizations — to take ownership of intellectual property that was created with federal funding. For example, if scientists at an academic medical center, which are partially funded by the government, created new technologies to treat oncology patients, the academic medical center could pursue patent protection for the invention. They could then license the rights to biopharma companies to develop commercial products.

Tony delCampo, executive director of Hackensack (N.J). University Medical Center's Office of Commercialization and Technology Ventures, says this law came at a time in U.S. history when other nations were more active in using its intellectual property. "We were spending a lot of money on innovation and research, and it appeared a lot of it was not getting into marketplace," Mr. delCampo says. "Quite frankly, other countries were passing us by."

Hospitals and intellectual property today

A result of the Bayh-Dole Act was the creation of technology transfer offices at universities and teaching hospitals, like Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Most medical centers that are affiliated with universities have a technology transfer or commercialization office, and according to the Association of University Technology Managers, there are several dozen academic medical centers and health systems with such an office.

The path of intellectual property at healthcare organizations varies but follows a similar vector, Mr. delCampo says. Hospital developers create intellectual property, which can then be transferred to the industry through licensing. Industry then has the responsibility to develop the technology into a product that can be sold in the marketplace. Revenues received by the hospital from its licensing activities are shared with the original developers and their departments according to the organization's intellectual property policies. Additionally, the hospital always retains the right to share its discoveries with other nonprofit healthcare organizations for general research purposes.

Mr. delCampo says the actual process takes a lot of time and effort, but the thought process is the same: Productive research in hospitals is at its best when it is managed strategically. "If we want to see the benefits of innovation, it has to get out to marketplace," Mr. delCampo says. "This is not to say every bit of innovation is sold or licensed. Some may be unpatented intellectual property, or know-how. But some of that innovation may be used internally to bring efficiencies to a hospital's activities."

Giulianna Peri, senior vice president of MX.com, says hospitals can manage their intellectual property in a variety of ways. For example, her company acts as an online marketplace for hospital intellectual property, allowing executives at any-sized hospital to find free or licensed tools to help their system. Whitepapers, webinars and other research tools on health IT, patient safety solutions and anything to do with healthcare reform and data-sharing have been in high demand, she says.

"We won't tell you how to run the OR, but we can give you protocols for successful perioperative handoffs," Ms. Peri says. "The intellectual property we deal with is like little modules that are easy to implement, with room for tweaking that will fit within [a hospital's] framework."

Intellectual property beyond revenue

For Johns Hopkins HealthCare Solutions, the commercialization unit of Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, disseminating intellectual property is more than just finding a new revenue source. Few hospitals have the budget, research and scope of Johns Hopkins, and helping other healthcare organizations with evidence-based practices could help lead to a more integrated healthcare system that many are calling for.

"We try to connect these best practices and ideas to a market so it goes to people who can use it," says Mark Cochran, PhD, managing director of Johns Hopkins HealthCare Solutions. "Our scientists and doctors worked on developments to be used by someone else outside, and that's hugely rewarding. It's a cool thing for them to see."

More Articles on Healthcare Intellectual Property:
St. Vincent Charity Medical Center in Ohio, Biomedical Group Form Innovation Partnership
Geisinger Health System Creates xG Health Solutions to Share Expertise, Innovations
Judge Dismisses Urologist's Suit Against Massachusetts General

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