Thursday, May 6, 2010

Pooling resources

South Africa aims to "speed development of drugs for neglected tropical diseases by freely sharing patented information owned by drug companies and academic institutions." The country "will use a new 'patent pool' to work on new drugs for tuberculosis and malaria, making it the first government to take advantage of the industry-led idea."

After GlaxoSmithKline set up a pool to share patents, in the effort to create an effective malaria vaccine, South Africa saw the possibility to use vast research from various channels to create medications that will change the world.

"The pool contains more than 2,300 patents that are available for use by industry, non-profit groups and academic researchers to develop new medicines for malaria, cholera and more than a dozen other diseases."

"This patent pool is an enormous boost for us to have a significant impact in South Africa," according to Mamphela Ramphele, chairwoman of the South African Technology Innovation Agency. "Her agency will coordinate and nurture drug development among local companies".

The patent pool is a tremendous wealth of information, providing not only "free use of patents, but also know-how and expertise".

"Frankly, expertise and know-how are often some of the more valuable aspects of drug development, and also things that companies don't usually share," says Melinda Moree, chief executive of BIO Ventures for Global Health. "This pool has both of these things (patents and expertise), which I think makes it fairly unusual."

"Moree said other large drug companies are interested in signing up to the pool, but would not name them. The pool contains patents for compounds that have a potential to be developed into drugs."

The pool opens "up the innovation process around drug development for neglected disease." Millions of people suffer every day. "Drug development has lacked. Tens of millions of people are too poor to pay for the drugs". "This is really a step on the part of industry to try a new model around one of the things that has sparked contentious debate around intellectual property," Moree said.'

In the past, some pharmaceutical companies received criticism for "fiercely backing patents that blocked cheaper competitors, even in the poorest countries, where brand-name medicines were unaffordable." GlaxoSmithKline and some other companies responded by "selling AIDS drugs in certain areas without a profit and offering licenses to generic makers." Companies and countries are now joining together with the common goal of disease eradication at all costs.

Steenhuysen, Julie. "S. Africa taps patent pool for neglected diseases." Reuters. 5 May 2010.

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