Most of the drugs they use to treat AIDS and cancer come from NIH research (although usually the pharmaceutical companies managed to squeeze in and get a patent for them).
The one I was thinking about was AZT https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... Government-funded researchers developed AZT, tied it up in a package, and handed it to Burroughs-Welcome. Burroughs-Welcome did have some expertise in retroviruses, but they weren't indispensable.
FYI, only about a quarter of all drugs were invented with public funding.
I'd like to know where you get that figure. And I'd like to drill down to see how much of that is new classes of drugs vs. me-too drugs that just stick on a methyl group somewhere.
In most cases academic research greatly informed the development of new drugs (as intended), but there's a huge gap between "this mutation causes bowel cancer, maybe if we inhibit that protein it will stop progression" to "this drug stops bowel cancer". (Huge gap = many years, at least hundreds of millions of dollars.)
There's a problem with the term "invented." Most drugs are the result of a long chain of efforts from basic research to drugstore. The drug companies contribute to parts of that, usually in the later stages of human research and industrial production.
But government agencies are quite capable of doing the human research. The VA for example has often done the best studies of drugs used in cardiology and other conditions that are common among their patient population.
And many of the drug companies now contract out their actual drug production to factories in China and India. The FDA does inspection and quality control.
Alexander Flemming discovered, or invented, penicillin in a university lab. He refused to patent it, because he wanted to give it to the world. During WWII, the British gave all their penicillin research to the U.S. government, who gave it to Pfizer, who worked out the commercial development. Pfizer, in contrast, patented everything they did and kept it to themselves.
In the case of AIDS, academic research has been focused on vaccines, whereas the current best-in-class anti-HIV drugs really have been mostly the work of the drug companies.
I'd have to look that up, but AZT was developed as I described. I'll give the drug companies credit where it's deserved, but they have always been supporters of NIH funding.
Whenever the Wall Street Journal had an editorial demanding that the government shut down NIH funding and unleash the creativity of the free market in its place, even the right-wing conservative corporate executives in the pharmaceutical industry came to the NIH's defense.