Universities didn’t always turn over the fruits of taxpayer-funded research to industry under “exclusive licenses”. The history of university technology transfer reveals important lessons and common fallacies and fears about reforming existing university licensing standards. Universities have also made public statements concerning unfair use of licensing and patenting procedures for agricultural products; now it’s time to extend that standard to biomedical innovations, as both the WHO and other concerned institutions have indicated.
At Yale University, students have successfully lobbied for the institution to stop enforcing its patent on the key AIDS drug Zerit (d4T) in South Africa. Now they’re looking for systemic reform of current policy.
At the University of Minnesota, students have successfully lobbied a number of governing boards to increase access to the AIDS drug Ziagen (abacavir), but are still working to get the university administration to agree to a policy change.
At Oxford University, students are lobbying the school–which conducts dozens of clinical experiments on populations in poor countries–to increase access to University-produced products in those nations. Hearings on the issue are ongoing.
Together with students at many other universities—including Emory, Duke, Columbia, Dartmouth, Harvard and MIT–they are working for systemic change, in part by pushing their schools to adopt a novel structure known as the ‘equitable access license’, or EAL. The EAL provides universities with a unique technology transfer mechanism through which even the earliest-stage innovations can be developed in a manner that may secure access to people in poor countries without negatively impacting upon innovation
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