After Safe Drinking Water, Vaccines Were the Second “Most Successful Medical Interventions of the 20th Century”

(p. B11) Dr. Paul D. Parkman, whose research was instrumental in identifying the virus that causes rubella and developing a vaccine that has prevented an epidemic of the disease in the United States for more than 50 years, died on May 7 [2024] at his home in Auburn, N.Y., in the Finger Lakes region. He was 91.

. . .

In 1966, Dr. Parkman, Dr. Harry M. Meyer Jr. and their collaborators at the National Institutes of Health, including Maurice R. Hilleman, disclosed that they had perfected a vaccine to prevent rubella. Dr. Parkman and Dr. Meyer assigned their patents to the N.I.H. so that the vaccines could be manufactured, distributed and administered promptly.

“I never made a nickel from those patents because we wanted them to be freely available to everybody,” he said in an oral history interview for the N.I.H. in 2005.

President Lyndon B. Johnson thanked the researchers, noting that they were among the few who could “number themselves among those who directly and measurably advance human welfare, save precious lives, and bring new hope to the world.”

Still, after Dr. Parkman retired from the government in 1990, as director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, he expressed concern about what he called the unfounded skepticism that persisted about the value of vaccines.

“With the exception of safe drinking water, vaccines have been the most successful medical interventions of the 20th century,” he wrote in 2002 in Food and Drug Administration Consumer, an agency journal.

For the full obituary see:

Sam Roberts. “Paul D. Parkman, 91, Researcher Whose Work Helped to Eliminate Rubella.” The New York Times (Friday, May 24, 2024): B11.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date May 21, 2024, and has the title “Dr. Paul Parkman, Who Helped to Eliminate Rubella, Dies at 91.”)

The 2002 article by Parkman mentioned above is:

Parkman, Paul D. “We Can’t Forget the Value of Vaccines.” Food and Drug Administration Consumer 36, no. 4 (July-Aug. 2002): 40.

A Miraculous Machine in the Middle-Ages That Did Nothing to Improve the Lives of the Masses

Before the industrial revolution clever inventors sometimes devised elaborate and amazing machines. The Antikythera mechanism is a famous example. Though these machines amaze us, they usually did little to improve the lives of those who lived at the time of invention. Why? Maybe the answer is that just before the industrial revolution, entrepreneurs were encouraged and enabled (through property rights and patents) to apply amazing inventions to the betterment of the people.

(p. C9) What kind of a book do we have in “Miracles and Machines: A Sixteenth-Century Automaton and Its Legend”?

. . .

The authors call the book a “clockwork”; its many disparate parts are joined in scrupulous devotion to a 16th-century automaton—an object, they write, which is at once “a sculpture, a machine, an icon, and a messenger.”

The figure is of a Franciscan friar, about 16 inches tall, carved out of wood, cloaked in a modern replica of the garb he once wore. His 5-pound weight is due to an intricate iron mechanism that fits inside his wooden body; it is wound with a key.

. . .

Imagine, Ms. King and Mr. Todd suggest, what it would have been like to see this automaton at the time of its creation. He is placed upon a candlelit table. His feet take steps under his tunic—but he actually glides on three wheels, making his movement seem ethereal. He is deliberately slow. This is not a mechanism meant to thrill us with speed and virtuosity. His movements are graceful, solemn.

As he moves, the friar raises and lowers a cross in his left hand and strikes his chest with his right, as if declaring “mea culpa.” He also lifts the cross to his lips and fixes his gaze steadily, perhaps at an observer at the opposite end of the table. He looks down at the cross, up at the observer, and begins to turn: “You let out half a breath,” the authors tell us, “but as his full body pivots on the table, feet in motion, head forward, his eyes slide left in their sockets to stay fixed on you!” Then he changes direction, staring at what might be another observer. There is no doubt about his seriousness; the impact on believers, in the half-light, would have been considerable.

. . .

In seeking to learn more about the friar’s provenance, Ms. King contacted Servus Gieben, a Dutch-born Franciscan who served as the director of the Franciscan Museum in Rome. In his correspondence with Ms. King, Gieben, who died in 2014, reaffirmed his theory that it may have been commissioned by Philip for his son Carlos. In 1562, at the age of 17, Carlos fell down a flight of stairs and so gravely injured his skull that he was not expected to survive (either the injury or the era’s “treatments”).

. . . The corpse of a Franciscan friar, Diego de Alcalá (ca. 1400-63), had remained free of decay after his death that it was thought to have healing powers. And behold: Once it was laid upon the dying prince, Carlos soon began to recover. Philip II spent 26 years petitioning four consecutive popes to recognize the miracle and declare Diego a saint. (He ultimately was, as the city of San Diego now affirms.)

Gieben suggested that the facial resemblance between the automaton and Diego was evident. And what better way, he thought, for Philip to honor Diego than by providing his often wayward son with an admonitory reminder in the form of the penitential friar himself, created by the most brilliant clockmaker in the empire. As Don Carlos was brought back to life, so an inanimate automaton would turn animate.

Even today, the authors suggest, the friar remains “a small miracle. Or the image of a small miracle. Or the metaphor of a large miracle. Or an artificial miracle.”

For the full review see:

Edward Rothstein. “A Wonder of Another Age.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, December 23, 2023): C9.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date December 22, 2023, and has the title “‘Miracles and Machines’ Review: Mystery of the Clockwork Man.”)

The book under review is:

King, Elizabeth, and W. David Todd. Miracles and Machines: A Sixteenth-Century Automaton and Its Legend. Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2023.

Zoliflodacin Is First New Antibiotic in Decades

(p. A12) A new antibiotic, the first to be developed in decades, can cure gonorrhea infections at least as effectively as the most powerful current treatment, a large clinical trial has found. The drug, zoliflodacin, is taken as a single dose, and it has not yet been approved for use in any country.

. . .

Pharmaceutical companies have largely abandoned antibiotic development as unprofitable. The development of zoliflodacin represents a new model: G.A.R.D.P., which is funded by many Group of 20 countries and the European Union, developed the drug in collaboration with an American pharmaceutical company called Innoviva Specialty Therapeutics.

The nonprofit sponsored the Phase 3 trial of the drug. In exchange, it holds the license to sell the antibiotic in about 160 countries while Innoviva retains marketing rights for high-income countries.

“I’ll go out on a limb and say that’s probably the only way in which we develop antibiotics going forward, because the old model is simply not going to work,” said Ramanan Laxminarayan, a senior research scholar at Princeton University who chairs the G.A.R.D.P. board.

. . .

“Nobody’s making a boatload of money off treatment of gonorrhea, especially when you’re using a single dose of an oral antibiotic,” said Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

“This is a path forward to solve the dilemma of getting pathways for products that don’t guarantee profits,” Dr. Marrazzo said.

For the full story, see:

Apoorva Mandavilli. “A New Drug Is Developed To Combat Gonorrhea.” The New York Times (Friday, November 11, 2023): A12.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Nov. 10, 2023, and has the title “Gonorrhea Is Becoming Drug Resistant. Scientists Just Found a Solution.”)

“Serendipitous” Discoveries Related to Two “Odd-Looking” Animals Was Source of Weight-Loss Drugs

(p. A1) The blockbuster diabetes drugs that have revolutionized obesity treatment seem to have come out of nowhere, turning the diet industry upside down in just the past year. But they didn’t arrive suddenly. They are the unlikely result of two separate bodies of science that date back decades and began with the study of (p. A2) two unsightly creatures: a carnivorous fish and a poisonous lizard.

In 1980, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital wanted to use new technology to find the gene that encodes a hormone called glucagon. The team decided to study Anglerfish, which have special organs that make the hormone, simplifying the task of gathering samples of pure tissue.

. . .

After plucking out organs the size of Lima beans with scalpels, they dropped them into liquid nitrogen and drove back to Boston. Then they determined the genetic sequence of glucagon, which is how they learned that the same gene encodes related hormones known as peptides. One of them was a key discovery that would soon be found in humans, too.

It was called glucagon-like peptide-1 and its nickname was GLP-1.

After they found GLP-1, others would determine its significance. Scientists in Massachusetts and Europe learned that it encourages insulin release and lowers blood sugar. That held out hope that it could help treat diabetes. Later they discovered that GLP-1 makes people feel fuller faster and slows down emptying of food from the stomach.

. . .

The key to the first drug would come from a serendipitous discovery inside another odd-looking animal.

Around the time Goodman was cutting open fish, Jean-Pierre Raufman was studying insect and animal venoms to see if they stimulated digestive enzymes in mammals.

“We got a tremendous response from Gila monster venom,” he recalled.

It was a small discovery that could have been forgotten, but for a lucky break nearly a decade later when Raufman gave a lecture on that work at the Bronx Veterans Administration. John Eng, an expert in identifying peptides, was intrigued. The pair had collaborated on unrelated work a few years before. Eng proposed they study Gila monsters.

. . .

Eng isolated a small peptide that he called Exendin-4, which they found was similar to human GLP-1.

Eng then tested his new peptide on diabetic mice and found something intriguing: It not only reduced blood glucose, it did so for hours. If the same effect were to be observed in humans, it could be the key to turning GLP-1 into a meaningful advance in diabetes treatment, not just a seasickness simulator in an IV bag.

Jens Juul Holst, a pioneering GLP-1 researcher, remembers standing in an exhibit hall at a European conference next to Eng. The two had put up posters that displayed their work, hoping top researchers would stop by to discuss it. But other scientists were skeptical that anything derived from a lizard would work in humans.

“He was extremely frustrated,” recalled Holst. “Nobody was interested in his work. None of the important people. It was too strange for people to accept.”

After three years, tens of thousands of dollars in patent-related fees and thousands of miles traveled, Eng found himself standing with his poster in San Francisco. This time, he caught the attention of Andrew Young, an executive from a small pharmaceutical company named Amylin.

“I saw the results in the mice and realized this could be druggable,” Young said.

When an Eli Lilly executive leaned over his shoulder to look at Eng’s work, Young worried he might miss his chance. Not long after, Amylin licensed the patent.

They worked to develop Exendin-4 into a drug by synthesizing the Gila monster peptide. They weren’t sure what would happen in humans. “We couldn’t predict weight loss or weight gain with these drugs,” recalled Young. “They enhance insulin secretion. Usually that increases body weight.” But the effect on slowing the stomach’s processing of food was more pronounced and Young’s team found as they tested their new drug that it caused weight loss.

To get a better understanding of Exendin-4, Young consulted with Mark Seward, a dentist raising more than 100 Gila monsters in his Colorado Springs, Colo., basement. The lizard enthusiast’s task was to feed them and draw blood. One took exception to the needle in its tail, slipped its restraint and snapped its teeth on Seward’s palm—the only time he’s been bitten in the decades he’s raised the animals. “It’s like a wasp sting,” he said, “but much worse.”

Nine years after the chance San Francisco meeting between Eng and Young, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first GLP-1-based treatment in 2005.

The twice-daily injection remained in the bloodstream for hours, helping patients manage Type 2 diabetes. Eng would be paid royalties as high as $6.7 million per year for the drug, . . .

For the full story, see:

Rolfe Winkler and Ben Cohen. “Two Monsters Spawned Huge Drugs.” The Wall Street Journal (Friday, June 24, 2023): A1-A2.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date June 23, 2023, and has the title “Monster Diet Drugs Like Ozempic Started With Actual Monsters.” The sentence about “a serendipitous discovery” appears in the online, but not the print, version of the article. The passages quoted above also include several other sentences that appear in the more extensive online version, but not in the print version.)

Medical Research Focuses More on Antibiotics Than on Phages Partly Because Antibiotics Are Easier to Patent

(p. 13) While recent events have provided a painful reminder of the very bad viruses that prey on us, Tom Ireland’s “The Good Virus” is a colorful redemption story for the oft-neglected yet incredibly abundant phage, and its potential for quelling the existential threat of antibiotic resistance, which scientists estimate might cause up to 10 million deaths per year by 2050. Ireland, an award-winning science journalist, approaches the subject of his first book with curiosity and passion, delivering a deft narrative that is rich and approachable.

In the hands of d’Herelle and others, the phage became a potent tool in the fight against cholera. But, in the 1940s, when the discovery of the methods to produce penicillin at an industrial scale led to the “antibiotic era,” phage therapy came to be seen as quackery in Europe and America, in part, Ireland suggests, because antibiotics, unlike phages, fit the mold of capitalist society.

Capitalists love patents. A funny quirk of the patent system is that you cannot patent entire natural things, but you can sometimes patent the way you extract their byproducts. The first antibiotics, being the secretions of fungi, were easier to patent in the United States than phages, which were whole viruses.

For the full review, see:

Alex Johnson. “Going Viral.” The New York Times Book Review (Sunday, September 17, 2023): 13.

(Note: the online version of the review has the date Aug. 15, 2023, and has the title “A Reason to Cheer for Cells and the Viruses That Feed on Them.”)

The book under review is:

Ireland, Tom. The Good Virus: The Amazing Story and Forgotten Promise of the Phage. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2023.

In “Hashing Things Out” to Save Lives Bateman “Could Be a Pit Bull”

(p. 20) Don Bateman, an engineer who invented a cockpit device that warns airplane pilots with colorful screen displays and dire audible alerts like “Caution Terrain!” and “Pull Up!” when they are in danger of crashing into mountains, buildings or water — an innovation that has likely saved thousands of lives — died on May 21 [2023] at his home in Bellevue, Wash.

. . .

Bob Champion, a former scientist at Honeywell who worked with Mr. Bateman, said in a telephone interview: “Don had a true passion for saving lives. He was a peach, but behind closed doors, when we were hashing things out, he could be a pit bull.”

. . .

“He never lost his childlike wonder about flying,” Ms. McCaslin said by phone. “He did a lot of his great work from his 40s on.”

. . .

Mr. Bateman told the National Science and Technology Medals Foundation in 2011 that in the late 1960s there were fatal accidents nearly every month, during which a pilot would “fly into something, like a mountain, or go in short on the runway.”

. . .

Determined to do something, Mr. Bateman developed — and in 1974 patented — his first ground proximity warning system: a small box that integrated data from within the aircraft, including the radar altimeter and airspeed indicator, and gave the pilot a 15-second warning of an approaching hazardous condition.

. . .

In the 1990s, the system improved exponentially. Engineers working with Mr. Bateman added GPS and critical terrain data, including topographical maps of Eastern Europe and China that had been charted by the Soviet Union as far back as the 1920s; they had been acquired in Russia at Mr. Bateman’s request.

“We knew, as engineers, that if we could get the terrain data, we could do an awful lot,” he told The Seattle Times.

For the full obituary, see:

Richard Sandomir. “Don Bateman, 91, Engineer And Pioneer Who Invented A Cockpit Warning System.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, June 4, 2023): 20.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary was updated June 8, 2023, and has the title “Don Bateman, Who Kept Airplanes From Crashing, Dies at 91.”)

M.R.I. Inventor and Entrepreneur Earned Patent, But Was Denied Nobel Prize

(p. B10) Dr. Raymond Damadian, who built the first magnetic resonance imaging scanner, which revolutionized doctors’ ability to diagnose cancer and other illnesses — but who, to his dismay, saw the Nobel Prize for the science behind it go to two others — died on Aug. 3 [2022] at his home in Woodbury, N.Y.

. . .

The vision of scanning the human body without radiation came to Dr. Damadian in the late 1960s, he said, when he was working on nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy — which, until then, had been used to identify the chemical makeup of the contents of a test tube — at Downstate Medical Center (now SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University) in Brooklyn.

Working with rats, he discovered that when tissues were placed in a magnetic field and hit with a pulse of radio waves, cancerous ones emitted distinctly different radio signals than healthy ones.

He published his findings in 1971 in the journal Science and was granted a patent three years later for an “apparatus and method for detecting cancer in tissue.” It took 18 months to build the first M.R.I., originally known as a nuclear magnetic resonance scanner, or N.M.R. Its first scan, on July 3, 1977, was of Lawrence Minkoff, one of Dr. Damadian’s assistants — a vivid and colorful image of his heart, lungs, aorta, cardiac chamber and chest wall.

“Having birthed the original idea of the N.M.R. body scanner, we were intent on being the first to accomplish it,” Dr. Damadian said in the book “Gifted Mind: The Dr. Raymond Damadian Story, Inventor of the M.R.I.,” published in 2015, which he wrote with Jeff Kinley. “Failing to do so meant we might be denied the recognition for the original idea.”

But the technology behind the M.R.I. had several fathers.

Acknowledging that he was inspired by Dr. Damadian’s work, Paul C. Lauterbur of the State University of New York at Stony Brook had figured out how to translate the radio signals bounced off tissue into images. And Peter Mansfield of the University of Nottingham in England had developed mathematical techniques for analyzing the data, making the process more practical.

Employing the techniques he pioneered, Dr. Damadian’s company, Fonar, based in Melville, N.Y., produced the first commercial scanner in 1980.

. . .

While working at Downstate and later at Fonar, Dr. Damadian was aware of Dr. Lauterbur, a chemist who was also working on M.R.I. imaging and with whom he shared the National Medal of Technology.

In “Gifted Mind,” Dr. Damadian acknowledged that Dr. Lauterbur “realized that the N.M.R. signal differences in diseased and normal tissues I discovered could be used to construct a picture (image).”

But in 2003, when Dr. Lauterbur and Dr. Mansfield won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for their contributions to the science of magnetic resonance imaging, Dr. Damadian was enraged.

. . .

A year later, Dr. Damadian received one of the two annual Bower Awards given by the Franklin Institute, a science museum in Philadelphia. He was cited for his business leadership.

“There is no controversy in this,” said Dr. Bradford A. Jameson, a professor of biochemistry at Drexel University who was the chairman of the committee that chose the winners. “If you look at the patents in this field, they’re his.”

. . .

Dr. Damadian continued to innovate. He created open M.R.I. machines, which alleviate the claustrophobia patients can experience during scans when they are moved slowly through a tight tunnel, as well as mobile and stand-up scanners.

In recent years, he was focused on research that included imaging cerebral spinal fluid as it flowed to the brain.

For the full obituary, see:

Richard Sandomir. “Raymond Damadian, 86, Is Dead; Creator of the First M.R.I. Scanner.” The New York Times (Thursday, August 18, 2022): B10.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary was updated Aug. 19, 2022, and has the title “Raymond Damadian, Creator of the First M.R.I. Scanner, Dies at 86.” Where there is a minor difference between the online and print versions, the passages quoted above follow the online version.)

Damadian’s biography mentioned above is:

Kinley, Jeff, and Raymond Damadian. Gifted Mind: The Dr. Raymond Damadian Story, Inventor of the MRI. Green Forest, AZ: Master Books, 2015.

Log4j Open Source Bug Created “Endemic” Risk for “a Decade or Longer”

Continuing worries about the Log4j software bug are consistent with my skepticism of open source software, Openness to Creative Destruction. You can find a brief discussion in the chapter defending patents.

(p. A6) WASHINGTON—A major cybersecurity bug detected last year in a widely used piece of software is an “endemic vulnerability” that could persist for more than a decade as an avenue for hackers to infiltrate computer networks, a U.S. government review has concluded.

. . .

“The Log4j event is not over,” the report said. “The board assesses that Log4j is an ‘endemic vulnerability’ and that vulnerable instances of Log4j will remain in systems for many years to come, perhaps a decade or longer. Significant risk remains.”

. . .

Security researchers uncovered last December a major flaw in Log4j, an open-source software logging tool. It is a widely used piece of free code that logs activity in computer networks and applications.

For the full story, see:

Dustin Volz. “‘Endemic’ Risk Seen In Log4j Cyber Bug.” The Wall Street Journal (Friday, July 15, 2022): A6.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date July 14, 2022, and has the title “Major Cyber Bug in Log4j to Persist as ‘Endemic’ Risk for Years to Come, U.S. Board Finds.”)

My book, mentioned above, is:

Diamond, Arthur M., Jr. Openness to Creative Destruction: Sustaining Innovative Dynamism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2019.

Louise Slade Was “Well Compensated” for Her Role in 47 Kraft Patents

(p. B7) Louise Slade, a groundbreaking food scientist whose work you can thank for soft-from-the-freezer ice cream, extra-chewy cookies and potato chips that retain their satisfying crunch despite being baked and not fried, died on Oct. 7 [2021] in Morristown, N.J.

. . .

It has been said that cooking is an art but baking is a science, and perhaps no one understood that adage better than Dr. Slade, whose research focused on how to keep dough, bread, cookies and crackers tasting delicious even after weeks on a grocery store shelf.

. . .

Dr. Slade’s great insight, which she developed over some 25 years as a scientist at General Foods and Kraft, was to consider food not as a combination of discrete ingredients but as a system of interacting molecules. By understanding those interactions, one could build predictive models for how, for example, to tweak a bread recipe to make it stay fresh longer without chemical preservatives.

“She was the only person I knew who could swim among the molecules and understand them at their most fundamental level,” Hamed Faridi, the executive director of the McCormick Science Institute, said in an interview. “Her strength was her impressive knowledge of how those molecules interact to create flavor and texture.”

. . .

“A lot of what Louise established was how to make products consistent and stable without putting in a lot of additives consumers don’t want,” Todd Abraham, who worked with Dr. Slade at Kraft, said in an interview.

Dr. Slade provided not just a framework for answering those challenges but also a voluminous amount of research: She and Dr. Levine, who worked together for much of their professional careers, published some 260 papers and received 47 patents. She once estimated that the patents she received for her corporate employers were worth more than $1 billion.

. . .

She also began to work with the Monell Chemical Senses Center, an independent research institution in Philadelphia that studies taste and smell; she eventually joined its board.

Personally frugal and well compensated for her corporate work, Dr. Slade became one of Monell’s chief donors, giving more than $2 million in her lifetime, Dr. Gary Beauchamp, the center’s emeritus director, said.

For the full obituary, see:

Clay Risen. “Louise Slade, Scientist Who Ensured Your Goodies Stay Good, Is Dead at 74.” The New York Times (Monday, November 1, 2021): B7.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary was updated Nov. 1, 2021, and has the title “Louise Slade, Scientist Who Studied the Molecules in Food, Dies at 74.”)

James Dyson Persevered Through 5,127 Prototypes to Achieve Vacuum Cleaner Success

(p. C7) James Dyson was a less than stellar student at the boarding school he attended in Norfolk, England, where his father was a classics master. Yet he would become the founder of a family-owned global manufacturing empire. Mr. Dyson gained fame—and a peerage—as the inventor of a revolutionary vacuum cleaner that exploits the principle of the cyclone and never needs a replacement bag, among other novel domestic appliances.

. . .

It took Mr. Dyson four years and precisely 5,127 prototypes—as he reminds us in the first paragraph of this book’s introduction and in the last paragraph of its last chapter, as well as several times in between. He points out that his perseverance—abetted by subsequent and continuing failures in the form of rebuffs from the likes of banks, venture capitalists, government agencies, manufacturers, distributors and retailers—was rewarded with ultimate success. The idea of “accepting and even enjoying failure, but going on” is another theme carried throughout Mr. Dyson’s book.

. . .

With success achieved in the United Kingdom, Mr. Dyson looked to sell the fruits of his intellectual property beyond the sceptered shores. In America, he got legally tangled up with Amway, which he was convinced was infringing on his patents. The lessons learned from his failure to protect his patent rights for the Ballbarrow, however, steeled Mr. Dyson and his wife and business partner, Deirdre, against allowing this to happen a second time. Mr. Dyson sued Amway and, after five years of costly litigation, received a favorable settlement. The victory boosted the businessman’s growing reputation as a fighter and a winner.

. . .

. . . , Mr. Dyson tells a story of the struggles of entrepreneurship, and his arduous quests for private capital; suitable manufacturing facilities; building permits; talented and trained employees; and at least moral support from the British government. He reveals the many and continuing obstacles—financial, political, regulatory, sociological, cultural—that frustrated his attempts to expand his manufacturing enterprises within the United Kingdom. This challenge, he explains, eventually drove him to move the bulk of his business to Singapore, where Mr. Dyson’s company is now headquartered.

For the full review, see:

Henry Petroski. “The Inventor’s Dilemma.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021): C7.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review was updated Sept. 3, 2021, and has the title “‘Invention’ Review: James Dyson’s Dilemma.”)

The book under review is:

Dyson, James. Invention: A Life. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2021.

Covid-19 Patents Provide Funding for Development of Future Vaccines

(p. A25) South Africa and India have petitioned the World Trade Organization to suspend some intellectual property protections from Covid-19 drugs, vaccines and diagnostic technologies. In support of the effort, Doctors Without Borders began a social media campaign urging governments to “put lives over profits,” warning of “pharma profiteering” and urging support for “#NoCovidMonopolies.”

. . .

Intellectual property rights, including patents, grant inventors a period of exclusivity to make and market their creations. By affording these rights to those who create intangible assets, such as musical compositions, software or drug formulas — people will invent more useful new things.

Development of a new medicine is risky and costly. Consider that scientists have spent decades — and billions of dollars — working on Alzheimer’s treatments, but still have little to show for it. The companies and investors who fund research shoulder so much risk because they have a shot at a reward. Once a patent expires, generic companies are free to produce the same product. Intellectual property rights underpin the system that gives us all new medicines, from psychiatric drugs to cancer treatments.

. . .

Eroding patent protections has far-reaching consequences.

Take “messenger RNA,” the technology platform that supports the vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. Ozlem Tureci and Ugur Sahin, the wife-and-husband team at the helm of BioNTech, began exploring the use of mRNA more than 25 years ago and founded their company in 2008. Theoretically, mRNA can instruct the body to engineer proteins, including ones that increase immunity against infectious pathogens, cancers and rare genetic conditions. But the Covid-19 vaccines are the first truly successful applications of this technology. Scientists eager to explore future uses of mRNA will struggle to find investment if intellectual property protections are snatched away when others deem it necessary.

For the full commentary, see:

Thomas Cueni. “The Risk in Suspending Vaccine Patent Rules.” The New York Times (Saturday, December 12, 2020): A25.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Dec. 10, 2020, and has the same title as the print version.)