FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, April 4, 2013
Report Card Names Leading Research Universities Which Lack Socially Responsible Licensing Practices, Invest Little in Diseases Which Disproportionately Impact Poorer Nations
*** To view full results for all 54 universities, visit www.globalhealthgrades.
On Thursday, April 4th, Universities Allied for Essential Medicines(UAEM) announced the release of a first-of-its-kind report card grading 54 leading research universities in the U.S. and Canada on their commitment to global health in the developing world.
The new report card assesses these universities on their commitment to researching drugs and technologies to treat “neglected diseases” in the developing world, and to making their medical innovations available and affordable for those who need them most. Advocates publicly called for universities to devote more funding and resources to research on diseases which predominantly impact the global poor, and for increased use of socially responsible licensing that would help make new medical breakthroughs available and affordable in poorer nations.
The universities were graded on a number of criteria, including whether they invest in medical research that addresses the most neglected health needs of low-income communities worldwide; whether they license their health technologies to for-profit companies in ways that ensure treatments reach developing world patients at affordable prices; and whether schools are educating the next generation of global health leaders about the impact academic institutions can have on global health.
“Nearly a third of humanity does not have regular access to essential medicines, and in the poorest parts of Africa and Asia this figure rises to over 50%, leading to ten million deaths annually from treatable diseases. Meanwhile, universities are public institutions whose medical research is heavily funded by government grants and taxpayer dollars. They have a responsibility to focus on research that meets the most pressing global health needs and to ensure that the results of their research are available to those who need them most,” said Bryan Collinsworth, Executive Director of Universities Allied for Essential Medicines. “We need more accessible and responsible research licensing to help life-saving medical innovations reach people who otherwise can’t afford treatment, and we also need universities to invest in labs and programs dedicated to global health and, in particular, neglected diseases.”
Several top-tier institutions, including Yale, Columbia University, M.I.T. and New York University, scored a C- or below on the rankings. Other schools, like Case Western Reserve University, the University of British Columbia, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of California Irvine, garnered high scores on many metrics, including endorsement of socially responsible licensing, investing higher-than-average resources into diseases that primarily affect the developing world, and offering global health programs that include education on neglected diseases and how intellectual property policies can influence theglobal pricing and availability of new medicines.
Advocates noted that alternative licensing models had no negative impact on schools’ ability to fund and conduct research. “We’ve found that schools that license their research in ways that take into account the needs of the developing world maintain or even increase their licensing activity, while increasing the global availability of the health technologies they’re sharing,” said Alexander Lankowski, a fourth-year medical student at Boston University and one of the UAEM student leaders who developed the Report Card.
Many public advocates emphasized universities’ growing role in the drug development pipeline. “Universities play a key role in conducting basic and clinical research that leads to life-saving medicines,” said Dr. Paul Farmer, Professor at Harvard and founder of Partners in Health. “University decisions about what research to prioritize — and how to license that research to the private sector — have tremendous consequences for the lives of millions of people around the world. This Report Card helps us measure the impact, or lack of impact, that university policies have on global health. I strongly encourage students, faculty, and broader university communities to call on their institutions to enact meaningful policies that improve the chances that lifesaving medicines reach those who need them most.”
Universities Allied for Essential Medicines is an organization of university graduate and undergraduate students in health, science and legal fields who believe that our universities have an opportunity and a responsibility to improve global access to lifesaving medications and treatments. Find out more at www.uaem.org.