Sir John Sulston, Human Genome Project Leader, Remembered For Words On IP And Health R&D 14/03/2018 by William New, Intellectual Property Watch Leave a Comment 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)Nobel Prize winner Sir John Sulston passed away on 6 March at the age of 75, and was widely remembered in the press and scientific circles, celebrating his research, his wisdom, and his leadership of the landmark Human Genome Project. Intellectual Property Watch recalls his visionary warning and advice a decade ago about the intellectual property system, investment, and science that is still valuable today. An obituary that appeared in The Guardian may be read here. In a 2008 IP-Watch story (IPW, Innovation/R&D, 7 July 2008) reported by UK-based writer Dugie Standeford, Sulston spoke at an event with Prof. Joseph Stiglitz entitled, “Who Owns Science?” and gave insights into the challenges faced by scientists, policymakers, industry and funders that seem more relevant than ever today. The following is reprinted from that IP-Watch article: A 2002 Nobel Laureate in Physiology/Medicine, Sulston said science can be driven by need and curiosity, which requires a substantial degree of openness and trust among players. Increasingly, however, the picture is one of private ownership of science and innovation, a situation welcomed by governments and investors who control the direction of research, he said. But the consequence is to funnel science into profitable areas and steer clear of those that will not make money, he said. That trend has several consequences, including the neglect of research on diseases of the poor and the production of unnecessary drugs sold through high-pressure marketing, Sulston said. There has been a failure of equitable distribution of the goods of science but the solution is not to have “dull insistence on equality,” he said. IP is an ideological issue in quarters such as WIPO, Sulston said. Drug companies see any improvements to the system as weakening it, but no one is saying they have to give everything away, he said. The system should be a “good servant” not elevated to a “theistic level,” he said. Counterfeiting has become a major issue, Sulston said. The trend is to link counterfeiting with IP but they are not connected, he said. If drugs are sold at their cost of production or just above, counterfeiters would have little room in which to play. The IP system is causing the production of bogus products, he said. Sulston recommended a return to the old practice of splitting research and development from production, saying mixing the two leads to lobbying and advertising in R&D. Splitting them allows equitable delivery of products and can make R&D openly accessible, but only if those who share science also share its benefits, he said. That separation appears to be happening to some extent as private companies such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funnel money into public health, Sulston said, but he warned against a return to the Victorian days when healthcare was supported by philanthropy. He urged that global health issues be coordinated by the World Health Organization, but said it is underfunded and heavily lobbied by governments and commercial interests. Sulston also wants more coherent thinking about a biomedical treaty being examined by the WHO, and greater input from transnational non-governmental organisations. Reversing the trend toward privatisation of science is critical, Sulston said. The world should concentrate on the survival and thriving of humanity, and exploration of the universe, he said. The outcome, he added, depends to a great extent on “who owns science.” 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 William New may be reached at email@example.com."Sir John Sulston, Human Genome Project Leader, Remembered For Words On IP And Health R&D" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.