WIPO Drug Research Project Strikes First Agreements

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A World Intellectual Property Organization project aimed at expanding research on diseases occurring predominately in developing countries using IP-protected material has announced its first research agreements.

The three first agreements under the WIPO Re:Search project involve London-based pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, partnering with: iThemba Pharmaceuticals (a research institution in South Africa); the University of California, San Francisco; and the University of Dundee in the United Kingdom.

The WIPO Re:Search project aimed at neglected tropical diseases was launched almost a year ago (IPW, WIPO, 27 October 2011). Since then, its membership has grown from 30 to 50 worldwide, according to WIPO.

The Re:Search project website is here. The August edition of a Re:Search newsletter on partnerships is here.

The project is relatively attractive to industry holding intellectual property rights, and for least-developed countries. The rights holders agree to make their IP assets (such as compounds, drug discovery technologies, regulatory data and know-how) available to anyone royalty-free for research, and any resulting products would be royalty-free in 49 least developed countries (LDCs). Neglected tropical diseases occur in 149 countries.

It remains to be seen how much this scheme will help address the larger number of people suffering in the biggest developing countries.

In a release, WIPO Director General Francis Gurry called partnerships such as these “an important measure of success” for the project, and that more results could be on the way “in the coming weeks and months.”

Neglected tropical diseases include tuberculosis, schistosomiasis, leishmaniasis, African sleeping sickness, and Chagas disease.

The industry-oriented BIO Ventures for Global Health organisation is a joint administrator with WIPO on the Re:Search project.

Earlier this month, WIPO announced that three African Network for Drug and Device Innovation (ANDI) Centers had joined the Re:Search project. The centres are: Tryponosomiasis Research Center, Kenyan Agricultural Research Institute; Kumasi Center for Collaborative Research in Tropical Medicine (Ghana); and University of Buea, Cameroon; joining the Medical Research Council of South Africa.

As a side note, AstraZeneca has been struggling on drug development, according to a press report, and today announced the appointment of a new CEO – from the pharmaceutical division of Swiss rival Roche.

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

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