UBC Pledges Developing World Access to New Technologies

Access to relevant health, environmental and sustainability technologies for the world’s poor is now significantly improved through a new University of British Columbia strategy called global access licensing.

UBC is the first university in Canada to launch such a program. UBC members of the international student group Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM) served as catalysts to develop the strategy.

“Our role as a research university extends beyond innovation — we have a responsibility to promote a global, civil society,” says Barbara Campbell, associate director at UBC’s University Industry Liaison Office (UILO) that oversees research commercialization. “It’s our duty to try to maximize the societal impact of our work.”

Societal impact of innovations and global access to them will be addressed when new UBC technologies are developed, patented and licensed, Campbell said.

“We have been very impressed with UBC’s willingness to collaborate with our group and their sincere commitment on this issue,” says Patricia Kretz, a UBC medical student and UAEM member. “They have demonstrated their commitment by immediately putting principles into practice. We hope that other Canadian universities will act with the same courage and dedication that UBC has shown.”

University and student leaders developed the principles through a series of consultations. Principles include: using public/private partnerships to develop new technologies that benefit the developing world; seeking funding partnerships to advance innovation in neglected disease areas; prioritizing research that benefits the environment; respecting biodiversity in the collection of research materials; designing patent strategies to ensure products are delivered to those most in need while promoting sustainable local infrastructure; and ensuring that underprivileged populations have at-cost access to innovations where appropriate.

Some UBC projects have already incorporated global access strategies. For example:

  • An agreement with the University of Papua New Guinea to share revenues from discoveries made using Papuan New Guinean marine products, relating to Earth and Ocean Sciences Prof. Ray Andersen’s research into new therapies from natural products. Revenues will support the country’s exchange and education programs and marine conservation activities.
  • A UBC-led project to change the way infectious diseases are treated worldwide by using the body’s own immune system to prevent lethal, drug resistant infections such as malaria, typhoid fever, E. coli and tuberculosis. The project, led by Prof. B. Brett Finlay, is funded by US$8.7 million as part of the Grand Challenges in Global Health, supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation through the Foundation for National Institutes of Health. The international project will provide at-cost delivery of essential medicines to the developing world.
  • Prof. Kish Wasan, of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, developed a new formulation for the treatment of fungal infections such as leishmaniasis, which affects approximately 200 million people annually in developing countries and kills about half a million people in India alone. Wasan’s liquid preparation allows patients to take the medicine orally with minimal side effects — a significant improvement over current intravenous administration that has significant toxic side effects. The commercialization agreement between the UILO and iCo Therapeutics Inc. of Vancouver, B.C., ensures the formula is developed consistent with global access principles.

For more information on UBC global access principles, visit www.uilo.ubc.ca.

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