Tuesday, November 20, 2012

mit students call for innovation freedom in dev countries

A change we’d like to see immediately is the implementation of a global access licensing policy at MIT. When medical innovation, however early-stage, is licensed to a company for further development and, hopefully, testing and sales, this transfer of technologies is bound by an agreement that carries terms and stipulations. We would like all licensing agreements regarding medically relevant innovations at MIT to include clauses that will enable their affordability in the developing world. Harvard already does this for all medically relevant licenses, no matter how basic the research. Such global access humanitarian licensing clauses eliminate barriers based on intellectual property in the developing world. One mechanism is the Statement of Principles and Strategies for Equitable Dissemination of Medical Technologies, and that statement is a written policy. We would really like to see MIT sign onto that statement. It’s flexible, and it offers a range of licensing options.
When MIT licenses its technology to a single corporate partner, that entity generally reserves exclusive rights to that intellectual property. Global access licensing divides up the geographic scope of this exclusivity. Companies can retain a monopoly in the developed world, but under the strongest form of global access licensing, intellectual property restrictions are lifted in low and middle-income countries. This lets companies in poor countries provide for their own people. Based on figures from the pharmaceutical trade organization PhRMA, about 5% of profits in 2002 were taken in at low and middle-income countries, so we’re only asking companies to give up 5% of their profits in exchange for the potential to extend medical access to billions of people.
So what is the argument against signing on?
Many of the arguments address possibilities rather than realities. Companies are afraid of potential loss of profit in the developing world, which time and time again is shown to be small - the 5% figure mentioned before. Companies are also afraid of parallel importing, in which low cost generic medical products will be imported back to the high-income markets, and there’s data showing that while this happens on a small scale, it does not pose a huge risk to their markets in the developed world. There have recently been arguments about the emerging markets, especially in middle-income countries, so I think that companies want to cover all their bases to make sure that they have intellectual property rights in India, China, and Brazil, because of the potential of those markets to grow. However, we contend that the billions of people who live on under 2 dollars a day in those
by sudha guttikonda
With over twenty-five labs, centers, and collaborations centered on medical sciences alone, MIT is a hub for innovating new medical technology to treat disease in the current era. But the latest health innovations rarely reach or target the places that need them the most: the developing world.
“We contend that the billions of people who live on under 2 dollars a day in those countries need medical technologies now; the potential for a profit that has not been realized yet is not reason to deprive billions of people from their livelihood.”
countries need medical technologies now; the potential for a profit that has not been realized yet is not reason to deprive billions of people from their livelihood.
How important is it to have a chapter at MIT in particular?
It is very important to have a chapter at MIT. In fact, UAEM International recognizes this by making MIT one of the three universities targeted in this year’s main campaign. MIT is one of the most prolific patenters of all universities…especially [with regard] to medical research. The Koch center has just been built, we are seeing collaborations with the Broad Institute—we think MIT is absolutely key: number 1 because many nascent medical technologies are coming out of MIT, number 2 because MIT is a leader for other institutions. It is seen as a trendsetter, a thought leader, and we think that when MIT signs on, other institutions will also follow.
Anything you would like to say to prospective members?
You come for the issues, and stay for the people in UAEM. It has been a real pleasure to work with the students, the young
Photo: Wikipedia / One Laptop Per Child
professionals, and the faculty members who are in UAEM. It makes it all the more satisfying when you reach that elusive success – as we did with the Statement of Principles at Harvard and beyond - that you really got there through this difficult but exhilarating journey with colleagues, and you teach each other so much.
Want to help out with UAEM’s mission? You can join or contact UAEM-MIT by e-mailing uaem@mit.edu.

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