Drug Development, Neglected Diseases, and the Role of Universities

(Quoted from Universities Allied for Essential Medicines/UAEM, http://www.essentialmedicine.org/why-universities/)

Universities, as intellectual property holders, play a crucial role in the development of new medicines and medical technologies, and that how they patent and license these technologies can help determine whether individuals in developing countries have access to the end products of university research.

As major contributors to drug development, universities are uniquely positioned to influence the way lifesaving medical technologies are developed and deployed. Universities own patent rights in key pharmaceuticals to treat HIV/AIDS, cancer, Hepatitis B, and countless other diseases. In fact, a U.S. Senate report in 2000 found that 15 of the 21 drugs with the greatest therapeutic impact were developed using federally funded research, most of which occurs at universities. So far, however, drugs developed at universities have remained largely out of reach for millions of the destitute sick in the developing world.

At the same time, universities are a promising locus for change. Universities hold an avowed commitment to creating and disseminating knowledge for the public good, and they have pledged to see the technologies they develop deployed to benefit the world. Campus decision makers are insulated from lobbies that may dominate political arenas; they are expected to be responsive to students and faculty; and they operate in an environment where reasoned debate, not power, is expected to be the currency.

AMSA urges universities to utilize the following Principles, suggested by the institutional ethos of universities, when making patenting and licensing decisions that have potential impacts on access to essential medicines and medical technologies worldwide:

  • University research is intended to advance the common public good, a primary element of which is the advancement of health.
  • Global public health concerns need to be an important part of patenting and licensing decisions.
  • The success of patenting and licensing programs should be measured according to their impact upon public health.
  • University intellectual property policies should be implemented in a manner supportive of developing countries' right to protect public health and, in particular, to promote access to medicines for all.
  • Technology transfer to develop capacity in developing countries is an important part of universities' mandate to advance knowledge and the social good.

Solutions to Problems of Drug Development, Neglected Diseases, and the Role of Universities


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