News Release: Research , School of Medicine

Feb. 11,  2011

Emory is a Top Contributor to Drug Discovery, According to New National Study

News Article ImageEmory-discovered HIV/AIDS drugs are taken by more than 94 percent of U.S. patients on therapy and by thousands more globally.

A new study finds that Emory University is the fourth largest contributor in the nation to the discovery of new drugs and vaccines by public-sector research institutions. The contributors include federally funded universities, research hospitals, and federal laboratories.  

The research was published in the Feb. 10 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. The authors were from the Boston University School of Management, the Norwegian Radium Hospital Research Foundation, Boston University School of Law and the Office of Technology Transfer of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The researchers identified 153 FDA-approved drugs and vaccines that were discovered at least in part by public-sector research institutions during the past 40 years. The top five contributors were the NIH (22), the University of California System (11), Memorial Sloan-Kettering (8), Emory University (7), and Yale University (6).  

The seven Emory products included HIV/AIDS drugs lamivudine (3TC) and emtricitabine (FTC), discovered by Emory scientists Dennis Liotta, PhD, and Raymond Schinazi, PhD, and their former colleague Woo-Baeg Choi, PhD.  These two drugs are among the most commonly used and most successful HIV/AIDS drugs in the world, taken in some form by more than 94 percent of U.S. patients on therapy and by thousands more globally.  

Lamivudine is included in the drugs Epivir, Combivir, Epzicom, and Trizivir, manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline. Emtricitabine is included in the drugs Emtriva, Atripla, and Truvada, manufactured by Gilead Pharmaceuticals.  

“We are extremely proud of our scientists and their lifesaving and life-enhancing discoveries,” says Emory President James Wagner. “This study illustrates once again that our nation’s long-standing and world-leading policy of investment in research through universities and other public institutions, along with the responsible use of technology transfer, delivers a tremendous return through improved health for millions, innovative technologies, economic development and training for the next generation of innovators.”  

The study found that public-sector research was involved in the discovery of as many as 20 percent of therapies approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from 1990-2007. Through studying the FDA review process, the researchers also found that public sector research institutes “tend to discover drugs that are expected to have a disproportionately important clinical effect.”  

The passage by Congress of the Bayh-Dole Act in 1980 allowed universities, nonprofit research institutes and teaching hospitals to own the intellectual property resulting from federally funded research and to license it to private sector companies.  

Over the past two decades, through its Office of Technology Transfer, Emory University has launched 51 start-up companies and received more than $788 million in licensing revenues from drugs, diagnostics, devices, and consumer products. Currently, more than 50 products are in various stages of development or regulatory approval, with 27 having reached the marketplace and 12 more in human clinical trials. Emory continues to return the funds it receives from its technology transfer successes back into a variety of programs in research and science education.

For more information about technology transfer at Emory:


The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University is an academic health science and service center focused on missions of teaching, research, health care and public service.

Learn more about Emory’s health sciences:
Twitter: @emoryhealthsci

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