Monday, November 27, 2006

Universities urged: 'share benefits of health research'

Eva Tallaksen at SciDev.Net has a succinct report on the Philadelphia Consensus Statement which "outlines how universities can improve access to medicines and transfer of knowledge to the developing world by changing their licensing policies and intellectual property (IP) rights." From the Philadelphia Consensus Statement:

"According to the World Health Organization, about ten million people—most of them in developing countries—die needlessly every year because they do not have access to existing medicines and vaccines. Countless others suffer from neglected tropical diseases, such as sleeping sickness, lymphatic filariasis, and blinding trachoma. Because these neglected diseases predominantly affect the poor, they attract very little research and development funding, which leads directly to a paucity of safe and effective treatment options.

We believe that access to medical care and treatment is a basic human right.1 Lack of access to medical treatment in developing countries stems from several factors, including high prices for medicines, underfunded health care systems, and a global biomedical research agenda poorly matched to the health needs of the world’s destitute sick. Comprehensive solutions are thus needed to increase both access to existing medicines and research on neglected diseases.

We believe that universities have an opportunity and a responsibility to take part in those solutions. University scientists are major contributors in the drug development pipeline. At the same time, universities are dedicated to the creation and dissemination of knowledge in the public interest. Global public health is a vital component of the public interest. Therefore, universities best realize their objectives when they promote innovation and access to health-related technologies.

To this end, we, the signatories of this Statement, urge universities to adopt the following recommendations.

As owners of intellectual property, universities have the ability to promote widespread availability of their technologies in the developing world. When university-owned intellectual property is necessary for the development of a health-related end product—including but not limited to drugs, vaccines, diagnostics, monitoring tools, know-how and technical expertise—universities should:


1. Require the inclusion of licensing terms in exclusive technology transfer agreements that ensure low-cost access to health-related innovations in the developing world...

2. Develop a transparent, case-by-case global access strategy to ensure access to health-related technologies where licensing provisions like the EAL will not serve the access objectives defined above...


1. Adopt policies promoting in-house ND research...

2. Engage with nontraditional partners to create new opportunities for ND drug development...

3. Carve out an ND research exemption for any patents held or licenses executed...

Given their avowed commitment to the public good, universities should measure success in technology transfer by impact on global human welfare rather than simply by financial return. The positive social impact from university innovations—particularly in poor countries—would go largely unnoticed if technology transfer were to be measured in dollars alone. In order to develop transparent criteria measuring access to health technologies and innovation in neglected-disease research, universities should:


1. Collect and make public statistics on university intellectual property practices related to global health access...

2. Collaborate with other universities and consortia to develop more robust technology transfer metrics that better gauge access to public health goods and innovation in neglected-disease research."

Thanks to Thiru Balasubramaniam of the Consumer Project on Technology, via the A2K list, for the pointer.

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