Bloomberg Law: Dinsmore's Brian O'Shaughnessy Talks COVID-19 Treatment Innovation

May 21, 2020Quotes & Mentions
Bloomberg Law

Dinsmore intellectual property partner Brian O'Shaughnessy spoke with Bloomberg Law this week about COVID-19 treatments made possible by an obscure law that encourages licensing agreements between private pharmaceutical companies and government-funded researchers. See what he had to say below.

Washington DC intellectual property attorney

One common question is why universities, nonprofits, and the government can’t produce lower-cost drugs with their own inventions, but that’s not a realistic prospect, said Brian O’Shaughnessy, a partner and intellectual property attorney at Dinsmore & Shohl.

Universities and nonprofits are “looking at new ways of fighting certain types of infections at a much more basic level,” O’Shaughnessy said. “They might elucidate a particular pathway or particular mechanism of action [in molecules], but rarely do those actual first efforts find their way into a commercial product.”

Instead, university research is often the jumping-off point that guides the industry toward the ultimate invention.

“To have industry come in and invest the tremendous amount of money, time and resources into something that can be commercialized and put into the human body requires about 10 years of research and $2.6 billion—and that’s not something any university is going to do,” O’Shaughnessy said. “They’re not in a position to take that kind of risk.”


The public is placing tremendous pressure drugmakers to ensure any viable COVID-19 treatments or vaccines are affordable and widely accessible. That pressure will be the most effective element keeping prices down on products that virtually the whole world is expected to need, O’Shaughnessy said.


Despite pricing pressure, the drug companies that come up with successful products are still likely to turn some kind of profit thanks to the licensing deals they’ve struck with research institutions, O’Shaughnessy said.

“There’s a huge need and there will be enormous sales, so I agree with the notion that most pharmaceutical companies are likely to charge only a marginal profit for each treatment, for each dose, but with the numbers that we’re talking about, they still stand to make a tremendous profit,” he said.

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