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April 20, 2012

Nyhus Drives Industry Change via We Work for Health Washington

by Randy Bolerjack

President Barack Obama

Before 2011, the federal patent system had not seen a major overhaul in almost 50 years. The America Invents Act signified an enormous leap forward for U.S. innovation in the 21st century.
Intellectual property supports 40 million jobs in the U.S.  IP-intensive industries added $5.06 trillion to the U.S. GDP in 2010, that’s 34.8 percent of the country’s output. In order for the U.S. to remain internationally competitive it was imperative that the nation’s patent system be updated to work with today’s economy.
U.S. biotech and life science companies have a deep stake in federal patent reform – patent law provides a security net for these companies to invest the high level of capital needed to develop medical treatments.
In 2011, as federal patent reform legislation was moving through the United States Congress, it was critical to the biotech and life sciences industry that the Senate and House bills passed. However, the bill was coming up for vote amid deep partisan divides and a stagnated legislative branch.
For Washington’s federal delegation, the diverse political makeup of the group meant the legislation needed bipartisan support in order to pass.
We Work for Health Washington (WWFH) is a coalition that advocates for the biotech and life sciences in Washington state. Nyhus mobilized WWFH in a months-long campaign that systematically engaged Washington senators and representatives. This effort expressed to the elected officials why the votes favored by WWFH on patent reform were critical to sustaining and strengthening the economic benefits to Washington provided by the biomedical industry.
This approach included earned media in large and mid-circulation newspapers, advocacy letters signed by biotech leadership and addressed to delegation members as well as outreach to local biomedical companies with interests in sound patent reform.
Further, we worked with state Senator Andy Hill to pen an op-ed citing the Senator’s remarkable story of survival after a diagnosis of stage-III lung cancer. After learning that the cancer had spread to his lymph nodes, Sen. Hill began an experimental drug regiment and within three weeks he was running again with his wife. A year and a half later, Sen. Hill remains cancer free and a medical miracle.
The op-ed highlighted the need for a predictable patent system that federal patent reform would bring, so biomedical innovators have the ability to invest in life saving devices and drugs, like the experimental one that saved Sen. Hill’s life.
Shortly after the op-ed was published, the entire Washington state House delegation voted in favor of the legislation, making it the largest state in the country to do so.
To learn more about our work with WWFH Washington, check out our case studies – Humanizing Patent Reform and We Work for Health Event.

[Photo courtesy of Wikimedia]

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