Arginine Wars

7–25–16, Lefko

Back in the 90’s arginine was all the rage in the Stanford biochemistry Dept…they had just received a huge grant to study the effects of arginine on blood flow with hopefully application to patients with partially clogged arteries (the idea being that the arginine would improve blood flow to these poorly supplied areas)…initial results were a huge success and so the professor (his name isn’t important to the story, so let’s call him Dr. X) patented the use of arginine as a health supplement and built a small company around it. this is interesting in itself, because arginine is a naturally occurring and crucially important amino acid, and that a person could even patent something related to it is somewhat controversial. Anyway, back to the story. He starts making health bars with arginine supplemented and marketing them a bit…they’re mildly successful and he swears by the stuff. To continue in his scholarly pursuit, he gets another federally funded trial for a longitudinal study to prove that on a broad scale these bars are good for you. Results come back and it turns out they are actually detrimental to patients with high risk blood flow…Dr. X was crushed — this was his life’s work and it was just proven a false lead. Being the good scientist that he is, he admits defeat and throws in the towel, not wanting to kill people with his business…the patent stays at the Stanford patent office for years, until Ron Kramer spotted it. F

Kramer saw an opportunity and bought the rights to the patent — which Stanford was happy to do because, despite having some hugely successful patents, most university patent offices barely break even. Kramer bought the patent and built a “health supplement” company around it, called ThermoLife. ThermoLife is essentially a shell of a true company, a medium by which Kramer can troll the other supplement companies. This is the Thermolife website: (http://www.thermolife.com/products/), they have about 9 products, and for the last long period of time, 7 of the 9 have been unavailable. What Kramer really does is create a bunch of pseudo supplements containing arginine nitrate, then finds other companies that make legitimate products containing any amount of arginine and sues them for their illegal use of his supplement formula. This has really pissed a bunch of people in the industry off, who are teaming against him and are calling for the repeal of the laws that gave him the ability to pull off these shenanigans. This whole spiel has gained the notoriety of a variety of public figures (not the least of which being president Obama), the patent office at Stanford issued a very defensive claim that they don’t support patent trolls but that they need to make money, and various members of the government are fighting to change the Bayh-Dole act (which essentially allowed all of this to happen). Here’s a link to the podcast itself: http://www.npr.org/sections/money/2016/06/10/481597112/episode-705-the-muscle-patents

Here’s a link of Ron Kramer being a dirtbag: https://youtu.be/3UMeu3eZhjE