An assessment of inventors of US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved medicines reveals a growing role for academic entrepreneurship in general and National Institutes of Health (NIH)-supported investigators in particular. For all small-molecule therapeutics approved between 2001 and 2019 (383 in total), 8.3% listed an academic inventor in the Orange Book. Remarkably, an additional 23.8% listed an inventor from a company founded by an NIH-funded academic inventor. Over time, the relative inventive contributions from academia has progressively increased, including nearly one-third of medicines approved since 2017. These findings suggest a surging role for academic inventors and founders, perhaps in combination with a faltering of traditional private sector dominance of drug discovery.