The Columbian: Patent protection vital to state, patients, by Blake Ilstrup
This post originally appeared in The Columbian on July 19, 2015.
Apple recently released a new app — ResearchKit — that could allow millions of patients to locate and participate in clinical trials through their iPhones. Seattle-based nonprofit Sage Bionetworks helped create the game-changing technology. The crowd-sourced data is already improving researchers’ understanding of deadly diseases such as Parkinson’s, diabetes and breast cancer.
This technology is emblematic of the medical innovation taking place across Washington. Biopharmaceutical research promises new treatments for serious diseases and creates jobs from Seattle to Spokane. To ensure this research succeeds, Washington’s representatives in Congress must push back against a new law that threatens innovation.
Biopharmaceutical research has helped raise the average life expectancy in Washington to nearly 80 years. That’s over a decade longer than the average American life span in 1950. New treatments and therapies give patients the opportunity to live longer, healthier lives.
To develop those new medicines, researchers must test drugs in clinical trials. Washington is home to 1,300 such trials. For instance, CisThera, a Bellevue firm, is working on a therapy to block tumor growth.
In 2013, biopharmaceutical firms plowed more than $164 million into Washington’s clinical trials. These trials had a $410 million impact on the Evergreen State’s economy.
However, a patent reform law from the nation’s capital could wipe away the medical and economic progress researchers have made. Congress is currently debating the “Innovation Act,” which is supposed to increase the legal burden on “patent trolls.” These trolls are people or companies who shake down businesses for settlement money by filing dubious patent lawsuits.
But the Innovation Act doesn’t just target trolls. The bill’s provisions will create trouble even for legitimate inventors trying to enforce their patents. Biopharmaceutical companies in particular depend on patents, which grant inventors a period of exclusive ownership during which only they can sell the newly created drug.