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Royalty-free scheme for 'poor' diseases

1st November 2011

The United Nations hopes to benefit billions of impoverished people throughout the world through a partnership with the world's top pharmaceutical companies.

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The goal of the partnership is to speed up the royalty-free development of drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics.

The UN hopes people who suffer from the world's neglected tropical diseases, as well as people infected with malaria and tuberculosis, will receive better treatment as a result.

The programme aims to bring industry and investors closer to diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria which are usually found in the world's poorest countries.

The poorest countries typically lack access to expertise and investment.

Other diseases the programme hopes to treat include Chagas disease (trypanosomiasis), dengue and dengue haemorrhagic fever, guinea-worm, and rabies.

The UN is running the programme in co-operation with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), through an information-sharing programme known as Re:Search.

WIPO Director General Francis Gurry said that WIPO's Re:Search was an example of how a multi-stakeholder coalition could put the idea of intellectual property to work for the benefit of society.

He said companies and researchers would commit to making selected company assets available under licences that did not require the payment of royalties.

The sale of medicines developed by the programme will also be royalty-free in what the UN calls the Least Developed Countries of the world.

The database includes information about compounds that have been studied by the various companies that have already joined the Re:Search programme, as well as expertise in pharmaceutical research.

Much of the information in the database relates to diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis.

Companies that have already joined the programme include Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, AstraZeneca, Eisai, GlaxoSmithKline, MSD1, Novartis, Pfizer, and Sanofi.

The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) has also joined the project.

NIH Director Francis Collins said that his organisation wanted to ensure that their biological materials and patents were available as broadly as possible to speed the development of new treatments.

He said that these were the goals of the NIH regarding all diseases, and that the Re:Search programme would help his organisation to realize those aims.

AstraZeneca chief executive David Brennan, who is also president of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA), said he believed that WIPO Re:Search had the potential to make a real impact on global health.


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