N Engl J Med 2007 Nov;357(20):2049-56
Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, MA, USA.
Background: Although issues related to patenting by faculty at academic medical centers have been the source of much controversy, there is little systematic evidence of the growth of these activities, their distribution among academic departments, and their relationship to faculty research efforts.
Methods: We pooled data on medical school faculty, National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant activity, and patenting to examine changes in the propensity to apply for a patent during the period from 1981 through 2000 that was subsequently granted, the distribution of these activities among departments, and the relationships between patenting and variables associated with individual faculty members. These variables included sex, academic degree, years since the last academic degree was earned, patenting by departmental peers, and NIH funding history. In addition to basic descriptive statistics, we estimated Poisson regression models based on the number of patents a faculty member applied for as a function of these variables.
Results: Applications for patents that were subsequently granted per medical school faculty increased dramatically during the period from 1981 through 2000. Although most patenting activity was carried out by faculty members in clinical departments, their rate of patents was low relative to that of faculty members in basic science departments. Regression results showed that persons were more likely to patent if they had recent NIH funding, were male, had Ph.D. degrees, were more experienced faculty members, and worked in departments with higher patenting rates.
Conclusions: Although the number of patents granted to medical school faculty increased dramatically during this period, patent activity was concentrated among a small number of departments and faculty members. Moreover, persons who had recently received NIH funding were more likely to apply for a patent than those who had not received such funding.