Search for malaria and tuberculosis vaccines put on fast track by UN partnership

World Intellectual Property Organization Director General Francis Gurry

26 October 2011 – One billion of the world’s poorest people stand to benefit from a partnership launched today by the United Nations and top pharmaceutical companies to speed up the royalty-free development of drugs, vaccines and diagnostics to treat neglected tropical diseases, malaria, and tuberculosis.

Under the agreement between the UN World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), which is entrusted with defending intellectual property such as trademarks, patents and copyrights, the companies and the non-profit BIO Ventures for Global Health (BVGH), public and private sector organizations will share valuable intellectual property (IP) and expertise with the global health research community on WIPO Re:Search, a virtual platform.

“WIPO Re:Search is a ground breaking example of how a multi-stakeholder coalition can put IP to work for social benefit,” WIPO Director General Francis Gurry said at the launch ceremony in Geneva.

“By joining WIPO Re:Search, companies and researchers commit to making selected intellectual property assets available under royalty-free licences to qualified researchers anywhere in the world for research and development on neglected tropical diseases, malaria, and tuberculosis.”

Membership in WIPO Re:Search as a user, provider, or supporter is open to all organizations backing the project’s guiding principles, including the commitment that IP licensed via WIPO Re:Search will be royalty-free for research and development on neglected tropical diseases in any country, with sale of disease medicines also royalty-free in or to so-called least developed countries (LDCs).

WIPO’s partners include Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, AstraZeneca, Eisai, GlaxoSmithKline, MSD1, Novartis, Pfizer, and Sanofi, in cooperation with BVGH, the United States National Institutes of Health (NIH), and multiple non-profit research organizations.

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

The WIPO Re:Search database includes a wide variety of contributions relevant to malaria, tuberculosis, and other neglected tropical diseases, including individual compounds and associated data, screening hits from compound libraries, and expertise and know-how in pharmaceutical research and development. Through it, researchers into neglected tropical disease can work directly with scientists at pharmaceutical companies.

According to the UN World Health Organization (WHO), these diseases blight the lives of over a billion of the world’s poorest 2.7 billion people – blinding, deforming in ways that hinder economic productivity, maiming, debilitating and killing, with costly consequences for societies and health care. Linked to poverty, they have traditionally offered little incentive to industry to invest in developing new or better products for a market that cannot pay.

Apart from malaria and tuberculosis, they include Chagas disease (trypanosomiasis), dengue and dengue haemorrhagic fever, guinea-worm, yaws, human African trypanosomiasis (African sleeping sickness), leishmaniasis, leprosy, lymphatic filariasis, rabies, schistosomiasis, trachoma and snakebite.

“We want to ensure that our biological materials and patents covering treatments or vaccines for neglected tropical diseases, as with all diseases, are available as broadly as possible to speed the development of new products for people who are most burdened by these diseases, and WIPO Re:Search helps us to do this,” said NIH Director Francis Collins.

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