New Series: Biotechnology Companies at Forefront of Global Health Innovation – Post #1: GlaxoSmithKline & Alnylam Pharmaceuticals

On July 8 2009, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Inc. announced a patent pool to compile intellectual property (IP) to develop treatments for 16 tropical diseases as identified by the FDA including malaria, TB and Chagas, found in 49 Least Developed Countries as defined by the United Nations. (GSK press release)

The pool currently has two members (GSK and Alnylam) but is inviting others to participate. The donated IP will be non-exclusively licensed and royalty free for the purpose of addressing the above mentioned unmet needs. The current members of the patent pool will also provide for know-how, technical resources and training to be available to those who access the pool. The pool will also help in accessing financing where possible.
GSK has donated IP for some of its New Chemical Entities (NCEs) and Alnylam has donated its RNAi platform technology to the pool for limited field of use.   

For more information you can visit Alnylam and GSK websites. We will have updates as they become available.

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CAFC Judge Rader: “Strong IP System Allows Countries to Compete in World Marketplace”

I recently discovered an interview series on the intellectual property system on YouTube, produced by CropLife International.  Of particular interest is the interview with U.S. Federal Circuit of Appeals (CAFC)  Judge Randall R. Rader (Watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tB3OROLi9IM). I liked the way Judge Rader defined intellectual property: a way to protect the “know-how” of any economic entity (company, university, and individual) to do business in today’s global marketplace.

During the interview, Judge Rader focused on a part of the intellectual property system often left assumed by audiences professional, but ignored by audiences general: the importance intellectual property in building a solid economic foundation.  Like currency, without a mutual agreement on how much a dollar is worth — or how valuable a patent is — its hard to fund research or bring a new product to the marketplace.

I visited the United Nations Millenium Goals for further analysis: http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/.  The goals have a target date of 2015, less than 6 years away. Among the goals were the end of poverty and hunger, maternal as well as children’s health, combatting HIV/AIDS, environmental sustainability, and global partnership. It’s exciting to see countries, one by one, supporting progress on behalf of their citizens.

Its hard to see how strong intellectual property rights can help humanity solve any of these problems — if you don’t know where to look. But if you talk to folks in the know about IP, they can tell you stories:

1. A university researcher whose child was diagnosed with a rare disease, and inspired that same researcher to dedicate his/her life to finding a cure. The researcher discovered an important part of the solution and now works for a biotechnology company, who uses the company’s intellectual property assets to get funding for further research, clinical trials, hoping to bring a product to market to the world and to their child;

2. A country that, after winning their national independence, seeks to build its economy using the traditional knowledge of its indigenous people;

3. A university working with a pharmaceutical company through technology transfer to begin funding research it would have otherwise been unable to afford;

4. A non-profit organization’s CEO, who while working with doctors in an inner-city clinic discovers a faster way to detect (called a diagnostic) early on-set of a disease. The non-profit then uses the knowledge, in an agreement with further funding from universities or companies or government entities, to patent the discovery. The patent eventually helps bring the diagnostic to market.

While no one knows how the struggles meeting our Millenium Goals will be described in 100 years, it is certain that a strong intellectual property system allows every country to provide a chance for its citizens to bring their good idea to the table.

A convergance occurs, then, between our goals for the world and our rights in a strong intellectual property system: a convergance producing solutions and a better world.

Below are two additional interviews on intellectual property within the series worth noting:

Carrie LaCrosse (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FCD54T-S1Xg)

Carrie LaCrosse (Office on Intellectual Property Enforcement, US Department of State) discusses the value of IP for agriculture, looking in particular at new plant varieties and how IP is part of the solution in addressing the issues of food security.

Howard Minigh (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZZxke_-bkY)

Howard Minigh (CEO and President of CropLife International) discusses the importance of IP for agricultural production. With the world population increasing, more food will need to be produced on less land. IP rewards innovation, and encourages further investment in solutions that address food security issues in a sustainable manner.

CropLife International is a “global federation representing the plant science industry and a network of regional and national associations in 91 countries… committed to sustainable agriculture through innovative research and technology in the areas of crop protection, non-agricultural pest control, seeds and plant biotechnology” (website, here).