Sharing Biomedical Research Resources

Principles and Guidelines for Recipients of NIH Research Grants and Contracts

As a public sponsor of biomedical research, NIH has a dual interest in accelerating scientific discovery and facilitating product development. In 1997, Dr. Harold Varmus, Director, NIH requested that a Working Group of the Advisory Committee to the Director look into problems encountered in the dissemination and use of unique research resources, the competing interests of intellectual property owners and research tool users, and possible NIH responses. The Working Group found that intellectual property restrictions can stifle the broad dissemination of new discoveries and limit future avenues of research and product development. At the same time, reasonable restrictions on the dissemination of research tools are sometimes necessary to protect legitimate proprietary interests and to preserve incentives for commercial development. One of the recommendations of the Working Group was that NIH issue guidance to its funding recipients to help them achieve the appropriate balance. That guidance is provided in a two-part document, Principles and Guidelines for Recipients of NIH Research Grants and Contracts on Obtaining and Disseminating Biomedical Research Resources, consisting of Principles setting forth the fundamental concepts and Guidelines that provide specific information to patent and license professionals and sponsored research administrators for implementation. The full Report of the Working Group has detailed background information.