So which patents—along with their universities and scientists— are leading the race for royalties? An exact ranking is difficult, thanks to inflation and closely guarded revenue figures. But here are a few of the top contenders, along with notable also-rans.

Number One Patent: The biggest income producer of all time is probably cisplatin, a cancer drug developed at Michigan State University and licensed to Bristol-Myers. Royalties for this drug have already topped $55 million—and are continuing at more than $10 million a year with about eight years left on the patent. So far. Michigan State has taken in $15.3 million and inventors Barnett Rosenberg Thomas Krigas. and Loretta L Van Camp have divided another $8 million.

Richest Scientists: One of the top inventions of all time is Gatorade. Since 1973, this thirst-quencher, designed by University of Florida researchers to replace nutrients the body loses in athletic activity, has brought...

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