The UBA’s contribution to global innovation networks assessed from an analysis of its scientific publications

Blind knowledge transfer

Fifty-seven out of 1,232 (4.6%) UBA papers were cited in international patents from three patent offices: USPTO, European Patent Office and Korean Intellectual Property Office. Tijssen (2019) recently showed blind knowledge transfer figures for leader institutions focused on applied or technological research, such as Hannover Medical School (3.1%), MIT (4.6%) or ETH Zurich (1.9%). These figures are in line with the UBA’s results for pharmacy and pharmacology.

In our sample, there were 146 total citations in international patents, since some publications were cited more than once (most cited paper appeared in 13 patents), and they belonged to 141 patent families. The average lapse between the publication and the patent application citing the paper was 5.6 years. Hence, more blind knowledge transfer can be expected from papers published from 2013 onwards. Interviews reconfirmed the absence of a link with the patent owners. Some interviewees acknowledged that the patented invention was an idea that they had when they published the paper.

In the paper, we show that a milk component is a type of sugar that is in higher proportion in the cow’s colostrum. And we were able to isolate it. By isolating these compounds, they could be incorporated into baby food formulas because of their importance for brain development. This is what they patented. I was telling young researchers at the time to start a project on this... it wasn’t done. Isolating those compounds from colostrum is cheap, but nobody did it. Well, yes, now I know this company did it

(Interviewee 2, own translation).

Figure 13.1 shows the distribution of the type of institutions owning patents that cite UBA’s pharmacy papers for the chosen period. There is an absolute majority of corporations, none of which is a local company. Many are global leaders that can be considered as intellectual monopolies, such as BASF, Elli Lilly, Merck, Monsanto and Siemens. Within universities, there are no Argentinean institutions but mainly US top research-universities, such as Columbia, California, Stanford, Wisconsin Madison, Texas Austin and Michigan. Among public research organizations, almost every institution is from the United States.

The prevalence of the United States is further explored in Figure 13.2, which depicts the nationality of our sample of patent owners. The United

Type of institutions owning patents that cite UBA pharmacy and pharmacology publications

Figure 13.1 Type of institutions owning patents that cite UBA pharmacy and pharmacology publications.

Source: Author’s analysis based on Derwent Innovation and Web of Science.

Country of origin of the owners of patents citing UBA pharmacy and pharmacology publications

Figure 13.2 Country of origin of the owners of patents citing UBA pharmacy and pharmacology publications.

Source: Author’s analysis based on Derwent Innovation.

States is followed, from afar, by Germany and Japan. This result is not surprising considering the place of those countries in the pharmaceutical industry (Baranes, 2016; Khanna, 2012; Montalban & Saking, 2013). Moreover, owners come from core countries except for a Cuban public research organization and a South African company. Therefore, results show that knowledge is being extracted from a semi-peripheral research institution and redirected to core countries where intellectual rents are potentially being collected.

All in all, the level of blind knowledge transfer from the UBA’s pharmacy research is aligned to that of leading universities, and the principal benefactors of these promising results are core countries’ global corporations and top research institutions.

University-industry co-authorship

We consider university-industry co-authorship by analysing the types of UBA co-authors and their relative importance between periods (1998-2007 and 2008-17) (Table 13.1).

The comparison between periods shows that both local and international corporate co-authors grew more than total co-authors. In particular, international corporations have one of the highest growth rates. In the second period (2008-17), the UBA co-authored 7.1% of its pharma publications with corporations. Co-publishing with corporations is, of course, less frequent than co-authoring with academic institutions due to the core activity of each type of organization; thus, the relative growth of their importance between periods is even more telling of their significance.

The UBA-industry co-authorship in pharmaceutical research is way above Argentina as well as other Latin American countries’ co-authorship with industry (0.9% and 1.6%, respectively) (Confraria & Vargas, 2019). This gap not only speaks of the UBA’s research capabilities but also points to the internal heterogeneities of national innovation systems. These heterogeneities justify institutional-level analyses, especially for the case of semiperipheral universities that differ from their national science and innovation general environment. Further research should be done on the citations received by the UBA’s со-published papers with firms in comparison to total citations, among other possible indicators of the quality of published investigations. In any case, results indicate that the UBA’s contribution is more significant than what would result from just looking at the most used indicators (Section 4.1).

At the firm level, the UBA’s most frequent corporate co-authors between 1998 and 2017 include big pharmaceuticals like AstraZeneca, Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH, Bristol Myers Squibb and Eli Lilly. Excepting for Biousi- dus, a local firm, international corporations have published more or the same number of articles with the UBA than local corporations.

Institution

1998-2007

2008-17

Growth total frequency (%)

Growth frequency in distinct papers (%)

Total

frequency

Frequency in distinct papers

Proportion total publications

Total

frequency

Frequency in distinct papers

Proportion

total

publications

U BA

817

593

94.7

1101

703

91.1

International University

247

150

24.0

553

250

32.4

124

67

Argentinean University

106

81

12.9

212

163

21.1

100

101

CONICET

81

78

12.5

145

132

17.1

79

69

Argentinean Hospital

76

51

8.1

220

135

17.5

189

165

International Public Research Organization

32

30

4.8

74

53

6.9

131

77

International Hospital

24

17

2.7

81

47

6.1

238

176

Argentinean Public Research Organization (excluding CONICET)

20

18

2.9

66

47

6.1

230

161

Foundation

19

19

3.0

54

39

5.1

184

105

UBA CONICET

18

16

2.6

34

32

4.1

89

100

International Firm

13

13

2.1

42

32

4.1

223

146

Argentinean Firm

10

9

1.4

26

24

3.1

160

167

Source: Author’s analysis based on Web of Science.

Finally, concerning scientific publications, our interviews show that sometimes big pharmaceuticals appropriate UBA’s research and try to publish (and patent) it first.

I had a terrible experience with a big pharma. They have a drug for bone cancer. Suddenly we found that it inhibited a receptor from a nervous system cell that has importance in multiple sclerosis. (...)

We went to a congress in Edinburgh to present this result. When we returned, someone from the organizing committee told us that in the neuroscience division of this big pharma they started the same investigation. She told us to patent right away. I went to my faculty but did not get support. 1 think they don’t have the know-how to patent; neither the CONICET nor the UBA

(Interviewee 3, own translation).

 
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