Congratulations to the Medicines Patent Pool and Gilead Sciences for breaking new ground in using voluntary licensing agreements as a tool to improve access to medicines for people in developing countries.
The Medicines Patent Pool was established by the innovative global health financing initiative UNITAID in 2010 to stimulate innovation and improve access to HIV medicines. The Patent Pool works to achieve these goals by facilitating the sharing of intellectual property by patent holders through the negotiation of voluntary licenses. Last September, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) became the first entity to share patents with the Patent Pool. In May, President Obama joined other leaders of the G8 in affirming support for the Patent Pool and encouraging the voluntary participation of additional patent owners—public and private.
This morning, the Medicines Patent Pool and Gilead announced an agreement allowing the Pool to grant licenses to generic drug manufacturers for several Gilead products relevant to HIV and Hepatitis B treatment. This agreement makes Gilead the first pharmaceutical company to license technology into the Patent Pool. Also notable is the fact that Gilead is licensing intellectual property related to products still in clinical development—which means that manufacturers can plan early for production, potentially accelerating availability in developing countries.
The new agreement covers licenses for critical HIV treatments (tenofovir and emtricitabine), promising HIV treatments in the late-stages of clinical development (cobicistat and elvitegravir), and the combination of these products in a single pill known as the “Quad.” Tenofovir is also licensed to the Patent Pool for use against Hepatitis B – a serious illness in the developing world that the World Health Organization estimates kills 600,000 people a year.
NIH and Gilead are the first licensors to join the Pool. We hope additional public and private patent holders will explore voluntary licenses with the Medicines Patent Pool as one of many innovative ways to help improve the availability of medicines in developing countries.
Hillary Chen is Advisor to the Deputy Director for Policy in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy