Francis Gurry led WIPO as Director General from October 1, 2008 to September 30, 2020.

Innovation and Collaboration Needed to Address Public Health Challenges, WIPO Re:Search Event Concludes

September 28, 2018

WIPO’s Global Challenges Division organized a side event on the margins of the WIPO Assemblies entitled "WIPO Re:Search: Collaborative Innovation for Health" which showed that public health challenges, especially in relation to neglected tropical diseases, malaria, and tuberculosis, require innovation and collaboration.

The event examined key WIPO Research-brokered collaborations and presented a new platform to facilitate information-sharing in the fight against neglected tropical diseases, malaria, and tuberculosis.

(Photo: WIPO/Berrod)

The meeting opened with remarks from WIPO Director General Francis Gurry who underscored  the need for creative, collaborative responses to complex global health challenges, not least in the fight against malaria which infects 250 million people each year and claims the lives of approximately half a million.

Mr. Gurry’s introduction was followed by a panel discussion focused on scientific advances in the fight against malaria, as exemplified by a WIPO Research-brokered collaboration between Merck & Co. and Australia’s Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI) on the threat presented by drug-resistant strains of this deadly disease.  The panel also discussed how the WIPO Re:Search Fellowship Program, supported by the Australian government, strengthens capacity for science and intellectual property (IP) management in developing countries around the world.

Dr. Alan Cowman of WEHI, and Merck & Co. scientist Dr. David Olsen discussed their joint efforts to halt the malaria parasite’s ability to replicate in human blood cells, drawing upon Merck and Co.’s novel drug-like hit compounds and WEHI’s world-renowned expertise in biological research.  In similar fashion, Dr. Puthupparampil Scaria of the U.S. National Institutes of Health Laboratory of Malaria and Immunology described a WIPO Re:Search collaboration examining use of Takeda Pharmaceutical Co.’s innovative microneedle patch technology to administer an antigen-based transmission-blocking malaria vaccine developed in Dr. Scaria’s laboratory.

In both cases, WIPO Re:Search enabled the sharing of existing IP with researchers who are using it to advance science. Panel moderator Ms. Jennifer Dent, President of BIO Ventures for Global Health (BVGH), noted Dr. Cowman and Dr. Olsen’s collaboration this year won a U.S. 3.6 million dollar Seeding Drug Discovery Early Stage Award from Wellcome Trust. This represents an “external vote of confidence” in the collaboration’s scientific advances, she said.

Dr. Rintis Noviyanti of Indonesia’s Eijkman Institute of Molecular Biology described her three-month research Fellowship at WEHI where she worked with Dr. Cowman’s team on anti-malarial vaccine combinations. Dr. Noviyanti stated the advanced malaria research techniques she learned at WEHI now enable her to run high-throughput studies to obtain results more quickly at her home laboratory in Indonesia. Dr. Cowman commented that the fellowship benefited both institutions equally. As Australia has been free of malaria since the mid 1970’s, the knowledge, data, and experiences Dr. Noviyanti brought from Indonesia (where malaria is still endemic) greatly enhanced the WEHI team’s understanding of the parasite.

Ms. Amy Dietterich, Director of the Global Challenges Division that runs WIPO Re:Search together with BVGH, concluded the event with the launch and demonstration of the new WIPO Re:Search Resource Platform – an interactive tool that facilitates information-sharing in the fight against neglected tropical diseases, malaria, and tuberculosis.

In wrapping up the event, Ms. Dietterich said that tackling the complexity and vast geographic scope of our global health challenges requires multiple actors and multiple solutions, and that by thinking innovatively, and working together, we can make progress.