New WHO Faces On IP, Innovation; Matsoso Named South Africa Health Director

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The World Health Organization’s team on issues of intellectual property and innovation in public health is seeing changes in key personnel, as implementation of the UN health agency’s plan on IP and innovation hits its stride.

Malebona Precious Matsoso has been named Director General of Health for South Africa. This puts her in charge of the South African Department of Health, managing health issues for the entire country and reporting to and advising the Health Ministry.

Matsoso has led the WHO programme on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property (PHI) since August of 2009. She will leave for South Africa after the 17-21 May World Health Assembly.

During her service, the implementation of the WHO Global Strategy and Plan of Action on Intellectual Property, Innovation and Public Health – which was given a mandate in May 2008 and a budget in May 2009 – began in earnest its implementation, both from the secretariat and through its network of partners.

Also leaving the WHO IP team is German Velasquez of Colombia, who was a director in the programme working specifically on intellectual property matters. He is retiring after long service at the WHO and will join the intergovernmental South Centre as a senior advisor on health issues, effective 1 May.

Peter Beyer, who was seconded from the Swiss Office of Intellectual Property for two years beginning in the spring of 2009, remains on the team.

Meanwhile, several new faces have joined the team.

These include Zafar Mirza of Pakistan who arrived in Geneva several weeks ago from Cairo, where he was serving as the regional advisor of the World Health Organization Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office.

Mirza will hold a senior role and will take responsibility for Velasquez’s work on IP in the short term, though clear roles and positions in the evolving office have yet to be defined. He also brings with him experience in innovation and his expertise as a medical doctor.

Maria Auxilidora Oliviera has been made available by Brazilian government in a consultant position. She is the wife of UNITAID director Jorge Bermudez, according to a source.

Gina Vea, also a technical officer, is currently on leave, with Robinson Esalimba, IP lawyer and former Intellectual Property Watch researcher, currently performing her duties.

Others on the PHI team of technical officers are: Roderik Viergever, who is working on research priorities; Miriam Clados, who is working on matters related to an expert working group on innovative research financing mechanisms; and Claudia Nannei. There is also a PhD student from Cambridge University, Julia Li. In addition, Chandrika John is a programme assistant on the team.

The Evolution of PHI

In recent months, PHI has been solidifying partnerships both internal and external to the organisation in order to streamline the process. The global strategy was never meant to be a stand-alone office but rather a mainstreamed strategy involving the leadership of relevant WHO departments, partners, and governments, sources said.

Internal to the WHO for example, access to essential drugs projects would be led by the WHO Medicines department; vaccines would be handled by Essential Health Technology; and leadership on research would be shared with the Research Policy and Coordination department, the Tropical Disease Research department and other research-related departments.

Areas of future leadership falling under the PHI secretariat are likely to include intellectual property, technology transfer, and monitoring and evaluation of overall global strategy implementation.

PHI also is finalising a new communications strategy. This is in recognition of the need to more constructively engage civil society and industry. Intellectual Property Watch will follow with a more complete explanation of the changes within PHI.

William New may be reached at wnew@ip-watch.ch.

Kaitlin Mara may be reached at kmara@ip-watch.ch.

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