Opinions and Editorials

Jul. 24, 2020

Roll Call: Innovation Is Key To Defeating COVID-19 by Bob Dole

In just a few short months, the world as we know it has been threatened and transformed by a global pandemic — a pandemic that has already claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and devastated the economies of countries across the globe.

Our nation has faced significant challenges before, and we have always risen to the occasion and prevailed. It’s the American way. I remain confident about our resilience in response to the COVID-19 crisis, and much of this confidence arises from legislation that I co-authored in 1980 with my former colleague — the late, great senator from Indiana, Birch Bayh.

The Patent and Trademark Law Amendments Act — commonly known as the Bayh-Dole Act — helped set the stage for the public-private partnerships that are essential to developing a vaccine and effective treatments against the novel coronavirus. Several of the vaccines and therapeutics currently in development likely wouldn’t exist without this legislation. According to Bloomberg Law, “The most promising COVID-19 treatments and vaccines being explored right now were made possible” because of Bayh-Dole.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Bayh-Dole Act. We introduced the legislation because we knew neither government nor industry alone had the intellectual capacity or the resources to develop and produce the kind of innovations that lead to life-saving cures and transformative technologies. As Sen. Bayh and I wrote years ago in a joint op-ed, “The purpose of our Act was to spur the interaction between public and private research so that patients would receive the benefits of innovative science sooner.”