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Consortium to Speed Access to Affordable Medicines in the Developing World
February 23, 2010, Volume 56, No. 23

A consortium of leading research universities, including the University of Pennsylvania, and organizations along with the Association of University Technology Managers has announced its endorsement of a far-reaching “Statement of Principles and Strategies for the Equitable Dissemination of Medical Technologies” in the developing world.

Penn joins Harvard, Yale, Brown and Boston universities; Oregon Health & Science University; the National Institutes of Health; and AUTM, among others, in the new initiative that goes beyond “Nine Points to Consider in Licensing University Technology,” a 2007 statement endorsed by about 70 organizations and academic institutions, committing themselves to “implementing technology transfer strategies that promote the availability of health-related technologies in developing countries for essential medical care.”

This effort to hasten the development and dissemination of technologies and medications that will help ease the global health crisis began late last spring with a gathering of technology officers from a group of major research universities and organizations. A day-long gathering, and months of conference calls, resulted in a sharing of practical experiences and provided the framework for the document. The student group Universities Allied for Essential Medicines contributed to the effort.

“Academic research institutions have an important obligation to promote the broad dissemination of investigator discoveries for the betterment of all global communities,” Penn’s Vice Provost for Research, Steven J. Fluharty, said. “We are grateful to the diverse array of stakeholders that spent much time and effort to craft a living document which will serve as a guide as we go about moving important biomedical inventions from the academic lab to both developed and developing countries.”

The institutions recognize that they have relatively little influence over companies’ decisions about the pricing and distribution of drugs, vaccines, devices and other medical technologies in developing countries. However, they are committed to make every effort to ensure that their intellectual property does not become a barrier to access. The consensus statement describes a number of strategies that would facilitate generic production or below-market pricing.

The document commits the universities to, among other things:

• Make “vigorous efforts to develop creative and effective licensing strategies that help to promote global access to health related technologies.”

• Ensure that their intellectual property “should not become a barrier to essential health-related technologies needed by patients in developing countries.”

• Exert control over patent rights in such a way that fosters the availability of life saving products in the developing world.

• Support the development of new health-related technologies aimed at diseases that disproportionately burden the developing world, such as tuberculosis, AIDS, water-borne disease, tropical- and other region-specific ailments and parasitic infections, without regard to the potential for economic gain.

It is envisioned by the initial institutions that many other private and public universities will adopt the principles once they are broadly disseminated.

Universities which wish to sign on to the statement of principles can do so at www.autm.net/endorse.

Almanac - February 23, 2010, Volume 56, No. 23