Anderson, Christopher. "Scripps Versus Congress, Round II," Science 265 (8 July 1994), p.
The Scripps Research Institute is back in the congressional doghouse. The La Jolla, California,
institute took a beating last years for a deal with the Sandoz Pharmaceutical Corp. that would
have given the company the first fruits of its federally funded research; now it stands accused of
failing to disclose that the research behind 43 patent applications was partially funded by the
government. The information is contained in a report released last month by the Inspector
General of the Department of Health and Human Services, which concludes that the government
may be paying unnecessary royalties on Scripps' inventions as well as missing the opportunity to
obtain nonexclusive licenses on some products.
An investigation by the Inspector General's office found that Scripps had reported the role of
federal funding in just 51 of the 125 patient it had been awarded since a 1980 law required such
declarations; 94 of the patents had actually benefited from federal funding. In a 15 June
statement, Scripps said that it "became aware last year that it had failed to fulfill all of its
reporting obligations," and that it "regrets these past failures." However, it said that it doesn't
believe the mistakes had any impact on the government's rights to Scripps' discoveries. Since the
investigation, Scripps said, it has worked with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to establish
systems "to ensure full compliance."
The study, requested by Representative Ron Wyden (D-OR), follows an investigation last year by
Wyden into Scripps' ties with Sandoz. A May study by the Inspector General revealed that NIH
has no systematic process to monitor how grantees report federal funding in the patent
applications. Wyden has scheduled a hearing on 11 July to grill NIH officials on their plans.
Last week, NIH issued a primer for research institutions that want to work with industry.
Published in the 27 June Federal Register, the document expands on the advice given by a special
NIH panel earlier this year (...) on ways to avoid the type of concerns about academic freedom
and fair access that were raised by the original deal proposed between Scripps and Sandoz.