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The National Institutes of Health may be the largest public funder of biomedical research in the U.S., but its contributions to drug development are not well understood or recognized by most Americans. And a new analysis finds a key reason may be many institutions and researchers that receive NIH support fail to fully or correctly disclose this information when applying for patents.

Between 2012 and 2021, 14% of roughly 19,000 patent applications did not disclose financial support from the NIH or did not do so as required by federal law. Yet those who received agency funding did not receive clear guidance that the NIH should be named or instructions on how to correctly identify grant information in patent applications, according to a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.


As a result, the agency’s role in discovering or developing new medicines may remain obscured. And this has can have far-reaching implications for taxpayers, who underwrite government spending on science, as well as policymakers, who must make decisions about future investments in biomedical research.

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