WIPO, WHO and WTO Directors General Pledge Further Cooperation on Innovation and Public Health

February 27, 2018

WIPO Director General Francis Gurry joined World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Mr. Roberto Azevêdo, Director General of the World Trade Organization, in opening a one-day meeting looking at innovation, health and the Sustainable Development Goals.

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The February 26, 2018 meeting, hosted at the World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva, was the 7th technical symposium organized under the rubric of the WHO, WIPO, WTO Trilateral Cooperation on Public Health, IP and Trade.

In opening the proceedings, each of the Directors General said they intended to expand the partnership in coming years, with the shared goal of boosting innovation to improve health outcomes in countries around the world.

(Photo: WIPO/Berrod)

“We will not be able to enjoy relative health security unless we continue to innovate and to bring on new technologies to improve health outcomes,” said Mr. Gurry.

“And the necessary innovation, in turn, requires an economically sustainable basis, for which historically there have been only two sources: The public purse or the market system. At the same time, it must be recognized that innovation exists to improve the quality of life, the basis of which is health, without which nothing else really matters. So this recognition means humanitarian imperatives and economic rationalism can be opposed,” he said.

“So the policy considerations are extremely complex and exist at the intersection of systems whose rationales are very different,” said Mr. Gurry.

“Better health allows children to learn and adults to earn; it helps people escape from poverty; and it lays the foundation for long-term economic development,” said WHO’s Dr. Tedros.

“Health is a fundamental and universal human right. No one should get sick or die just because they are poor or because they cannot access the services or technologies they need.”

[Full speech of Dr. Tedros]

Mr. Azevêdo said that new innovative models were needed to ensure the widest access to new medical technologies.

“Major public health burdens remain, and we still lack incentives for innovative activities to address certain health problems, particularly those affecting the poorest countries. This means exploring new innovation models and this is a very important part of our trilateral work,” said Mr. Azevêdo.

“But equally, it means doing all we can to ensure that new technologies reach those in greatest need, because at the end of the day innovation without access does nothing to address the problems we are discussing here today. So innovation is not enough,” he said.

“Our three organizations, together with other stakeholders, share a responsibility to address these challenges so that innovative technologies come to the market, in affordable, sustainable and accessible form.”

[Full speech of Mr. Azevêdo]