Fostering R&D and Promoting Access to Medicines

An ICTSD Dialogue
Bellagio, Lake Como, Italy
22-26 October 2007

Description | Agenda | Participants | Documentation


As part of the Rockefeller Foundation's Frati Series on Intellectual Property (IP) Policies and Development, ICTSD organised a series of meetings at the Bellagio Study and Conference Center between 2002 and 2005. The series responded to concerns that certain trends in IP policymaking could pose a threat to economic, technological, social and cultural development in developing countries. It mobilised a diverse group of specialists, government experts and members of international and non-governmental organisations to identify strategic objectives, explore innovative policy approaches and contribute to the design of pro-development and pro-competitive IP initiatives.

Since then, ICTSD has engaged in research aimed at building knowledge on new developments in IP policy and published several issue papers and an array of regional and country studies. These have illuminated changes in the global economy and political context. This work has resulted in ICTSD refining its strategy to focus more explicitly on the underlying purpose of IP- to promote innovation and creativity- for all countries, not just those with the resources and policy infrastructure needed to make IP workable.

In this context, ICTSD's objective is to create new opportunities for the world's poor and vulnerable populations by fostering an environment in developing countries that is more conducive to innovation, creativity, as well as technology transfer, dissemination, and absorption. In addition, ICTSD endeavours to create a more balanced system that protects public interest, including access to medicines and educational materials. .

Bellagio 2007- Fostering R&D and Promoting Access to Medicines

For several years now, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has undertaken efforts aimed at solving the health and IP puzzle. In 2003, WHO launched the Commission on Intellectual Property Rights Innovation and Public Health (CIPIH) to examine appropriate funding and incentive mechanisms for the creation of new medicines for diseases that disproportionately affect developing countries. The CIPIH issued its final report in 2006, which included sixty recommendations relating to drug discovery, development, and delivery. Since then the World Health Assembly has set up an Intergovernmental Working Group (IGWG) to draw up a plan of action based upon the recommendations of the CIPIH report. The IGWG convened its first meeting in December 2006. It is scheduled to meet again in November 2007.

The CIPIH report covered a broad canvas and reviewed many different proposals for fostering R&D and promoting access. However it did not manage to produce a concrete set of policy proposals on which all members of the Commission could agree. That is now the task of the IGWG.

Moreover, the World Trade Organization (WTO) has grappled with the challenge of balancing intellectual property rights and public health since the creation of the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). Actual implementation of the Agreement might constrain generic production and raise concerns about the supply of affordable medicines in the world. Its implementation has led to several legal disputes over the use of legal flexibilities in the TRIPS agreement. Additionally, countries have responded by issuing compulsory licenses for the generic production of patented medicines. In the context of international trade, these challenges have been further exacerbated by the number of free trade agreements with more stringent intellectual property obligations than those contained in the TRIPS. These 'TRIPS-Plus' provisions might ultimately delay or limit the entry of generic competition.


The purpose of this dialogue is to consider in a small group of stakeholders a number of specific policy proposals in greater detail which would address, and reconcile, the objective of bolstering both innovation and access. It will bring a number of new voices to the table with those of seasoned experts and practitioners to 'crack open' the proposals, identify the opportunities and drawbacks associated with each, and identify various components that might ultimately be brought together and operationalised to foster R&D and promote access. A common underlying theme is the need to allocate the costs of R&D fairly while promoting access to medicines. If common ground can be located around one or more such proposals, with the active support of participants, this could be influential in respect of future deliberations.

The proposals to be considered include:

*The Prize Fund Model

*Patent Pools Advanced Market Commitments

*New forms of research and development funding

*Maximising flexibilities in the current patent system

Dialogue participants photographed on the Bellagio hillside.

© ICTSD 2004 - Last Update: 05-Oct-2009