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Innovation is Fragile, But Worth Protecting

"I was put into cardiac care immediately and had to stop working. I loved my job. That was the worst thing ever said to me – that I couldn’t work."

For heart transplant recipient and organ donation advocate Roxanne Watson, her battle with heart disease culminated in her inability to live a normal life – a reality that her and countless other patients with debilitating conditions are forced to accept every day. But after a heart transplant, Watson was able to return to doing the things she loved, thanks to advances in anti-rejection medicines which have enabled her to recover and continue to stay healthy.

To ensure that tomorrow’s patients can benefit from life-saving medicines, The Atlantic, in partnership with PhRMA’s GOBOLDLY campaign, convened thought leaders to discuss the policies needed to foster biopharmaceutical innovation while ensuring access and affordability for patients.

As Eli Lilly and Company (Lilly) CEO David Ricks noted, “I think what patients want are new cures for serious disease. We can make them more affordable from an out-of-pocket cost perspective, but we have to rebalance the system, which has become stacked against pharmaceutical innovation.” Ricks was joined by other leading experts – including United States Patent and Trademark Office Director Andrei Iancu and venture capitalist Abbie Celniker of Third Rock Ventures – to discuss the various factors that have enabled the United States to be the world leader in biopharmaceutical innovation despite the significant challenges associated with the discovery and development of new medicines.

“There is an ecosystem that is quite intentional,” said Celiniker. “That ecosystem is well-established and works very, very well.” This is in part due to stakeholders from the public and private sectors having a unique and important role but working in unison to advance patient care. As Margaret Anderson of Deloitte noted, “If you don’t have a system where the ecosystem stakeholders are all looking at the issue together from their vantage point, you’re not going to be as efficient and make the same progress.”

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Strong intellectual property protections that enable biopharmaceutical companies to take on the significant risks associated with medicine development underpin the robust U.S. research ecosystem. “There’s a reason why most R&D in our industry – 70 percent is in the U.S. – and most venture-backed funding for new ideas is in the U.S. Because the patent system has been consistent and reliable,” noted Ricks. Director Iancu agreed, adding, “I think patents are critically important overall to the entirety of our innovation ecosystem, across industries. I think they are particularly important…in the biopharma space for a variety of reasons.”

With less than 12 percent of medicines entering clinical trials achieving success, it is vitally important that we ensure a policy environment that promotes continued investment in tomorrow’s breakthroughs despite the risks. “I think that’s really important to understand that we’re essentially putting money in now,” Robert Atkinson of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation explained, “So that we can have better drugs and treatments for our children.

Lilly’s Ricks echoed these sentiments, “We’re investing in the future because we are in the age of biopharmaceutical innovation. This is the century where we’re going to conquer serious disease in a major way.”

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