MIHR: CENTRE FOR MANAGEMENT OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY IN HEALTH RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
At its Board meeting of July 20, 2007 the Board considered the financial prospects of the organization and its record of achievements. In reviewing the record of MIHR, the Board firmly believes that the organization has played a significant and important role in advancing effective IP management practices in developing countries and among PDPs. MIHR has helped to make the field understandable where once it was confusing and represented a dark space. MIHR has helped identify a pathway that can be followed by others as further work on IP management proceeds. The Board believes that in MIHR’s short life, it has made contributions that will have impact for years to come and thus, in a very real way, it will live on. Indeed, the MIHR Board believes that eventually there will be recognition of the importance of focused effort on IP management (and on regulation and manufacture), and MIHR (in one form or another) may well re-emerge from the impending period of dormancy. However in the light of present financial constraints, and with great regret, the Board decided to begin a process of winding down.
The board noted that, ironically, at a time of greatly expanded resources for health technology development, MIHR has not attracted the funds necessary for sustainability. The Board also noted that no similar organization exists to address the important area of intellectual property rights in enhancing access of developing countries to innovations in health research. Recently there has been a growing concern about the need for programs addressing issues of intellectual property to ensure access in developing countries. There is also concern about the need for support of other cross cutting issues such as regulation and manufacture. None of the initiatives concerned with these issues has attracted direct generous support from donors for the valuable work that can and should be done. The Board of MIHR believes that support for cross cutting work is eminently justified. Much greater efficiencies of the disease- and product-specific efforts of the various public private partnerships (PDPs) and of the work of developing country organizations can be achieved, if each does not have to reinvent the wheel of IP management, regulation, and manufacture.
A note about the establishment and support of MIHR and highlights of some of its achievements are presented below.
The Board acknowledges the leadership demonstrated by the Rockefeller Foundation when in 1990 it convened, with other donors, a meeting in the United Kingdom to consider the role of IP in health for developing countries. Following this meeting, the Foundation funded an in depth study of needs in IP for assuring access to needed health products by the poor in developing countries. This was a groundbreaking study that uncovered several novel insights about IP and the poor. Of greatest importance was the determination that IP is only one of the factors that affects access to health products by the poor. Of greatest importance is the existence of governments, agencies, and others prepared to buy and supply needed products to the poor. The study determined that IP is an increasingly important component or determinant of health innovation for developing countries and that there was a great need for enhanced capabilities in developing countries for management of IP by government, research institutes, and private sector firms. In light of these and other conclusions of the study, the Rockefeller Foundation generously supported the founding of MIHR based in the UK. MIHR began operations in September 2003, under the leadership of S. Ramachandran, Chair of the Founding Board, and C. Garner, the first CEO.
The Rockefeller Foundation
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
The Sasakawa Peace Foundation
The Kauffmann Foundation
The Wellcome Trust
In its first years, MIHR made significant contributions to clarifying further the role and challenges of IP management in promoting access to health technologies in developing countries. It ran training programs in Egypt, India, Mexico, and elsewhere. These training programs abundantly demonstrated the tremendous need for further and sustained training in developing countries.
With support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the collaboration of the Aeras Global TB Vaccine Foundation, MIHR also convened two consultations on IP management that brought together key personnel of PDPs who were able to exchange valuable information and best practices about the rapidly changing field of IP management. Detailed reports on these two meetings were subsequently made widely available.
MIHR undertook a pioneering effort to create and enhance IP management efforts in Africa. This program, supported in part by the Wellcome Trust, helped build up awareness of IP management opportunities and to build up centers of IP management expertise in a number of institutions throughout Africa.
In collaboration with the Indian Council for Medical Research, MIHR convened a meeting in New Delhi on the impact of TRIPS on access to medicines. The meeting found that while there are some areas for concern, TRIPS has not had a major impact on access by the poor.
MIHR also helped catalyze the founding and maturation of Technology Managers for Global Health associated with the Association of University Technology Managers. TMGH has grown to several hundred members and is providing a means to enhance the work of university technology managers in improving health in developing countries. MIHR has also created a master curriculum for training of technology managers in IP management to help ensure access by the poor. In a related effort, MIHR catalyzed the formation of a program of sister institution relationships with the first example being between FIOCRUZ in Rio de Janeiro and MIT in Cambridge. This relationship has already had significant benefits for both institutions.
MIHR has also been the IP management component of Pharma-Planta, an effort to develop needed new drugs to treat HIV and TB using pharmaceuticals derived from genetically altered plants. Through its work, MIHR was able to introduce a new IP management paradigm concerned with the poor for the 35 European participating organizations in the Pharma-Planta consortium.
With the support of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, MIHR examined in detail the options for management of IP in complex situations involving a web of patents. It considered patent pools, central licensing authorities, and other mechanisms. This study concluded that pools would rarely be an effective mechanism in health technology innovation but central licensing authorities could be useful in some situations.
MIHR also published two editions of a Handbook of Best Practices in IP Management. The first edition dealt exclusively with health while the second covered both health and agriculture. Support for the second edition also came from the Kauffmann Foundation and numerous other donors. Both editions have been distributed globally to thousands of users and represent the only such handbooks available to IP practitioners and others concerned with IP and access by the poor.
At the very end of its current work, MIHR is collaborating with the Saïd Business School of the University of Oxford to convene a major international conference on innovation and technology transfer. The output of this meeting should help define best practices across a comprehensive range of issues concerning access to health technologies. Support is being provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Finally, a number of scholarly papers emerged from the work of MIHR that enunciated and defined the new insights that MIHR had developed concerning effective and innovative IP management.