[Ip-health] Bridges Weekly: WIPO-Led Initiative to Tackle Neglected Tropical Diseases

Daniella Allam dallam at ictsd.ch
Mon Oct 31 08:08:27 PDT 2011


Bridges Weekly Trade News Digest <http://ictsd.org/news/bridgesweekly/> •
Volume 15 <http://ictsd.org/news/bridgesweekly/volume15/> • Number
36<http://ictsd.org/news/bridgesweekly/volume15/number36/> •
26th October 2011
WIPO-led Initiative to Tackle Neglected Tropical Diseases

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) launched a new
consortium today, 26 October, aiming to accelerate the discovery and
product development of medicines, vaccines, and diagnostics, with the goal
of developing new solutions for those suffering from neglected tropical
diseases (NTDs), malaria and tuberculosis.

The initiative is part of  efforts to ensure that the intellectual property
system can positively contribute to foster research and development (R&D)
and innovation that tackle such diseases, as well as greater access to
relevant treatments.

The initiative, named WIPO Re:Search, would provide qualified researchers
all around the world with access to valuable intellectual property that
could be used to develop ways to address NTDs, malaria and tuberculosis. It
has been jointly launched with BIO Ventures for Global
a non-governmental organisation that is “committed to helping
biopharmaceutical companies find ways to participate in global health.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that over one billion people
are affected by neglected tropical diseases such as dengue fever, African
sleeping sickness, and rabies, in addition to malaria and tuberculosis.

Currently eight pharmaceutical companies have signed on to the initiative,
in addition to other institutions, including the US National Institutes of
Health (NIH) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), among

*Initiative “first step of a long journey”*

The “licenses will be available free of charge for least developed
countries; for other developing countries, the costs will be negotiated,”
said WIPO Director-General Francis Gurry during the press conference.

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan lauded the initiative, noting that “the
demand for these products is huge since market forces fail to drive
innovation in NTDs.” Though the WHO cannot join as a member of the
consortium, the organisation is providing technical advice and expertise.

“We are your biggest cheerleader,” Chan said at a roundtable for the
initiative’s launch.

Also welcoming the initiative, Kenyan Ambassador to the United Nations Tom
Mboya Okeyo reminded reporters at the launch that “this is the first step
of a long journey; the most important thing is what happens in the future.”

*Initiative’s potential*

David Brennan, CEO of AstraZeneca - one of the providers under the
initiative and the world’s seventh largest pharmaceutical company- assured
that his company would make all of their nearly 1,400 patent families
available in the database and added that “patent rights do not have to be a
barrier to access to health care.”

“While some of our intellectual property is not intuitively oriented
towards NTDs, it may be that researchers will find some value that we might
not have seen… The more information we can make available, the more likely
it is that we can contribute to solutions,” he noted.

Gurry also underscored that WIPO Re:Search is “entirely in the spirit of
the Development Agenda,” the 45 recommendations that seek to mainstream the
development dimension into WIPO’s work.

Responding to questions regarding the relationship of this initiative to
others already in place, such as the Medicines Patent Pool, Don Joseph -
Chief Operating Officer (COO) of BIO Ventures for Global Health - said
“strictly speaking, the Medicines Patent Pool relates to commercial
products for HIV/AIDS; this is a R&D initiative and is not aimed at
commercial products per se. It also does not include HIV/AIDS. The scope is

*Mixed response*

the initiative, Médecins Sans Frontières - the Nobel award-winning
international medical humanitarian group -criticised the ‘timid’ licensing
terms. They stated that, “by agreeing to licensing terms that have an
unacceptably limited geographic scope, WIPO is taking a step in the wrong
direction and setting a bad precedent for other licensing arrangements.”

MSF called upon WIPO to expand the scope of this initiative to cover, as a
minimum, all disease-endemic developing countries.

On its part, the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), a
public-private partnership working to deliver new treatments for neglected
diseases, welcomed the WIPO initiative, indicating that it plans to join it
both as a provider and likely user.

However, DNDi also called WIPO to “take a step further in terms of access,
especially by including not only the least developed countries but all
neglected disease-endemic countries and for “more transparency in licensing
practices that have a public health goal.”

“We have to go beyond the minimum” added Bernard Pécoul, Executive Director
of DNDi, in a press statement.

ICTSD reporting.

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