WIPO To Launch New Drug R&D Database For Neglected Disease LicencesPublished on 19 October 2011 @ 3:26 pm
By William New, Intellectual Property Watch
The World Intellectual Property Organization, in conjunction with the World Health Organization, private sector and foundation partners, is preparing to launch a new voluntary database for the sharing of intellectual property for research and development on medicines, vaccines and diagnostics for neglected diseases, according to sources in Geneva.
The project will target least-developed countries and is likely to include a database and a space for creating partnerships . But budget, oversight and the role of member states is still unclear.
Launch of the project, called Re:Search, is scheduled for 26 October at WIPO. Some details of the project are available here, and a WIPO spokesperson said more details would become available on the day of the launch, which will be attended by WIPO Director General Francis Gurry and WHO Director General Margaret Chan.
According to the website, the aim is to boost discovery and development of medicines, vaccines and diagnostics for neglected tropical diseases plus malaria and tuberculosis through greater availability of intellectual property to researchers. Neglected diseases would include Chagas disease, dengue fever, human African trypanosomiasis, leishmaniasis, and many others.
According to sources, the consortium will be managed by WIPO, along with a governance board of participants. The consortium is said to be cosponsored by BIO Ventures for Global Health (BVGH), a Seattle-based group with Gates Foundation funding, and a biotechnology industry orientation. Other possible participants could be the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA), with its president, AstraZeneca CEO David Brennan, possibly attending the launch, the government of Tanzania, the United States government, the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative, and Medicines for Malaria Venture, sources said. The Brazilian public-private drug research group Fiocruz was also in consideration.
The project’s principle in accelerating industry R&D for developing countries is to find common ground between the goals of the global health community and the pragmatic needs of companies, a source said.
The consortium is expected to involve a database hosted by WIPO with information about intellectual property that can be licensed and other materials. It also is expected to have a “partnership hub” managed by BVGH for participants to learn more and network, and it will likely involve other supporting activities such as helping with negotiations of licensing agreements.
It appears that WIPO will pay for a Re:Search secretariat housed at WIPO to provide services along with the partnership hub administrator. There would be a governance committee made up of consortium members, offering guidance.
The relationship of the WIPO-WHO initiative to other initiatives such as the Medicines Patent Pool, which targets HIV/AIDS, is not clear. But if WIPO’s choice of focus is strictly least-developed countries, it could lower the bar on the Medicines Patent Pool’s concerted efforts in recent months to persuade pharmaceutical companies to share their patents for low-cost treatments in larger developing countries as well as least-developed countries. Companies have been willing to discuss allowing affordable versions of their patented medicines in LDCs because they have little market there anyway. But they have been tougher about mid-sized developing economies.
The current UN definition of LDCs includes 33 countries in Africa, 15 in Asia (including several small island nations), and one in Latin America (Haiti).
WIPO Joins Research4Life Initiative
Separately, WIPO announced this week that it had thrown its hat into the ring of organisations contributing to providing affordable access to critical scientific research for poor populations. WIPO added its Access to Research for Development and Innovation (ARDI) program, in which it partners with the publishing industry to increase developing country capacity to access scientific and technical information.
William New may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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