Birch Bayh

Birch Bayh (1928-2019)

Indiana Senator, Champion of the Bayh-Dole Act, Dies at 91


By Stephen J. Susalka, PhD

Sen. Birch Bayh passed away March 14, at the age of 91, leaving behind a legislative legacy that will long endure.

Since it was enacted in 1980, the Bayh-Dole Act has served as the cornerstone of the technology transfer profession. For those of us who work in the field, and those who have been helped by the many thousands of innovations that have made the world a better place, we owe him an awful lot.

It is because of Bayh’s bipartisan and ground-breaking legislation that we have thousands of academic inventions on the market today, Allegra, the nicotine patch, and FluMist, to name just a very few. The Bayh-Dole Act also set the stage for the explosion in growth of start-up company formation (today more than a thousand start-ups are formed each year in the U.S.).

And it was Bayh’s revolutionary legislation that was responsible for transforming the United States into an unmatched innovative powerhouse. You can read about Sen. Bayh’s many outstanding achievements in his obituary in The Washington Post.

You may assume that the U.S. has always been at the forefront of innovation, but it was as recently as the late 1970s where Europe was the undisputed leader of new drug development (149 new drugs from 1975-1979, compared to the U.S.’s 66 during that time), according to the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation. Because of the Bayh-Dole Act and other legislation, the U.S. now accounts for more new drugs than any other country (88 from 2012-2016 alone, compared to Europe’s 75). It is not an understatement that this legislation has led to millions of people living better and more productive lives due to its impact.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Bayh-Dole-like legislation has been adopted in countries around the world as governments try to emulate the commercialization success we have had here in the United States.

Because of Senator Bayh, the U.S. is more innovative, tax-payer funded inventions are being commercialized at a record pace, and economic development driven by these inventions and academic start-ups is booming.

Thank you Senator - you will be missed, but your legacy endures.