4. Technology Transfer in Medical Research and Development
The primary purposes of military medical R&D are preventing injury and illness in the field and sustaining life and health. However, there is probably no other DoD program whose research results are so directly applicable to the worldwide civilian community. Advances in antimalarial drugs, vaccines for many diseases, blood and tissue substitutes, and the treatment of trauma are all of direct and present benefit to people everywhere. The benefits are not limited to the United States; for example, DoD research teams deployed in Egypt, Taiwan, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Brazil, and Peru have worked directly on civilian health problems that not only are threats to the future deployment of American troops, but also are presently infecting local populations. Medical R&D also contributes to establishing national and international standards such as nutritional requirements of special populations, exposure to occupational health hazards, and development and demonstration of modeling technologies for predicting the effects of exposure to health hazards. For example, the Department of Transportation has used the Army's blast over pressure injury model to predict injuries from driver and passenger air bags.
The Army's first collaborative efforts in medical R&D were basic screening and testing agreements, under which a company or university would submit compounds for testing for a specific property, such as antimalarial activity. These early agreements quickly evolved into more extensive collaborative efforts where each partner would expend resources towards the development of a product and share the results of its efforts to meet the Food and Drug Administration's regulatory process. The development of mefloquine is a classic example of an early cooperative effort between the Army and industry which predates the Federal Technology Transfer Act. Each party funded its own preclinical and clinical studies with its own unique resources and shared and consolidated the data. The Army medical research and development program over the past decades has fostered thousands of cooperative relationships with academia and industry. With this history of extensive collaboration it is not surprising that this program continues to pace all of DoD in its collaborative efforts.
The Army's medical research and development program is rapidly evolving into the next generation of collaborative efforts: (1) pursuing cooperative research and development agreements coupled with patent license agreements for products and technologies which have both military and commercial applications, and (2) spinning off products and technologies predominantly with commercial applications through patent licensing agreements. The Army has numerous compounds which exhibit activity for multiple indications, some of which have commercial value and some of which are of value to the soldier in the field. For example, the Army is developing several compounds which appear to be active against malaria, leishmania (a problem for some Desert Storm veterans), and pneumocistis (which kills many AIDS patients). A collaborative effort on such compounds with multiple indications avoids duplication and allows U.S. industry and the Army to leverage each other's resources. The Army also has several products or technologies useful to the research and commercial communities, from vaccine production tools to qualitative and quantitative assays. Spinning off products and technologies with predominantly commercial applications or of general utility to the research community allows the Army to harvest a financial and societal return on its investment in the basic science, without diverting scarce resources from research with a higher military priority.
The U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command (USAMRMC) encourages research in relevant fields at colleges and universities, and cooperates with research efforts of the NIH, the NSF, and other government agencies. These research programs complement and exploit civilian science and technology efforts over the full research and development spectrum. The commercial sector is encouraged to address problems of military interest through the Small Business Innovation Research Program. The Federal Technology Transfer Act is the authority for numerous USAMRMC Cooperative R&D Agreements, primarily with pharmaceutical, chemical, and biotechnology firms. Medical R&D is an international program that most typifies broad and effective current and potential opportunities both in developing and developed nations; the USAMRMC participates in information and data exchange programs, cooperative developments, NATO comparative tests and foreign weapons evaluations, and symposia and meetings.