On April 12, 1955, Edward R. Murrow interviewed Dr. Jonas Salk on the CBS show, "See it Now." Salk’s polio vaccine had just been proven effective in preventing the disease. Murrow asked who owned the vaccine. "The people I would say," Salk answered. "There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?" Medical research culture has changed dramatically since Salk's time. Had it been invented today, it seems likely that the polio vaccine would have been patented immediately, and that Salk would have worked for a pharmaceutical company, rather than a university.
Harriet Washington writes about the consequences of profit-driven medical research in her new book, "Deadly Monopolies: The Shocking Corporate Takeover of Life Itself — And the Consequences for Your Health and Our Medical Future."