WHO Neglected Disease R&D Finance Group Nears Recommendations 07/12/2009 by Kaitlin Mara for Intellectual Property Watch 2 Comments Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)An expert working group on innovative financing for research and development, meeting under the auspices of the World Health Organization, held its third and final meeting last week, with a report from the secretive group expected to be released to member states in the coming weeks, according to sources. The WHO’s public health and intellectual property department also has recently released a progress report [pdf] on the implementation of the global strategy and plan of action on public health, innovation and intellectual property. The progress report details for the WHO Executive Board the group’s activities to date. A separate report on the Quick Start programme is also available here [pdf]. The programme is part of the global strategy intended to help identify what activities within WHO related to the strategy were already taking place, to avoid duplication and aid coordination. Expert Working Group The expert R&D financing working group report will contain recommendations to member states on innovative financing options. The working group looked through all proposals submitted during two public hearings, and ranked them on basis of feasibility and available information, as some were interesting concepts but lacked detail, others did not seem workable, and others seemed potentially useful but first needed further inquiry, a source told Intellectual Property Watch. The report is being finalised and is expected to come out in the next week, sources said, though it was unclear if this is to the public or just to member states. The working group met from 30 November to 2 December. One of the basic recognitions of the expert working group is that a substantial amount of money needs to be invested in the development of products to treat diseases in developing countries, the source told Intellectual Property Watch. There has been progress in this area, but not enough to meet needs, and it “should be a bigger priority.” One of the key questions the group had to answer is how to raise funds, as many proposals for improving R&D on neglected diseases streamline the research process (and in doing so may cut its costs), but are not actually revenue-generating, the source said. For example, patent pools can create “one-stop-shopping” for licences related to a particular drug, reducing both time and costs associated with procuring licences individually from their different owners. Money-making models discussed by the working group seemed to heavily revolve around taxes, from the drug-procurement group UNITAID’s tax on airline tickets, to the “Tobin tax” that proposes a small surcharge on financial transactions, to other suggested taxes on goods like tobacco or pharmaceuticals. There was also discussion of voluntary donations, perhaps through a fund, a source told Intellectual Property Watch. It was the clear necessity of finding innovative ways to support R&D that made many developing country stakeholders see the formation of the working group as a critical outcome of the global strategy on public health, innovation and intellectual property. But those same stakeholders have been concerned about the secrecy of World Health Organization regarding the activities of the working group since the strategy was adopted by the full membership in May 2008. Strengthening Prequalification The implementation of the global strategy is focussing on three areas: innovation and access, capacity building, and resource mobilisation and sustainable financing, Precious Matsoso said to Intellectual Property Watch. Matsoso leads the public health, innovation and intellectual property department at WHO, which is responsible for the strategy’s implementation. Initial areas, according to the global strategy report seem to be heavily focussed on technology transfer and capacity building. In an attempt to streamline drug registration processes, WHO is working on strengthening its prequalification plan for medicines. There is “good potential to support R&D activities [with the prequalification programme] but this is a new area that should be explored further,” said Matsoso. The report says this strengthening includes expanding the scope of medicines covered by the programme to include neglected tropical diseases, pandemic influenza, and reproductive health; adding three more quality-control laboratories to the programme (bringing the number of labs to eleven). The medicines department at WHO has been working with UNITAID on a patent pool, specifically on priority medicines for HIV/AIDS, said Matsoso. And, in partnership with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD), and the support of the European Commission, is undertaking a project intended to improve access to medicines in developing countries through local production and technology transfer to aid that production, Matsoso told Intellectual Property Watch. It “involves identifying the main challenges and obstacles of local production in developing countries,” she added, and will include both North-South and South-South technology transfer, and not be limited to least-developed countries as is the technology transfer article within the WTO. Initial work will be in stakeholder analysis and case studies, and preliminary data is expected to be available this week. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related Kaitlin Mara may be reached at email@example.com."WHO Neglected Disease R&D Finance Group Nears Recommendations" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.