A Call to M8 leadership on Global Health
BERLIN, October 2012. – Dear WHS organizers, respected professionals, speakers and other World Health Summit (WHS) attendees. This is a student statement created by participants of the World Health Summit 2012.
As members of Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM), an NGO representing medical, law, public health and biomedical research students from more than 100 universities worldwide, we focus on equitable access to publicly funded innovations and aim to strengthen research for poverty-related and neglected diseases (PRND) at our universities.
We were impressed by the distinguished expertise gathered in the workshops and symposia at the 2012 World Health Summit. We were especially glad to see UAEM’s main points of interest reflected in the four lectures focusing on access to medicines and six workshops linked to research and development for PRNDs. Through this programming, the organizers of the WHS rightly emphasized the crucial role of these themes in tackling “health challenges in an equitable way”  .
However, we would like to point out that although “generating key statements conveying findings and recommendations based upon scientific evidence”  is an outspoken goal of the M8 alliance, so far the M8 has neither established specific policies nor taken any other measures to initiate measurable progress in the fields of access and innovation.
In 2010 the M8 member Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin made a first step towards fulfilling the social responsibility of research universities. The university implemented the following paragraph into its third-party-funding regulations:
“The results of research projects with third-party funding have to be accessible for people in need. This includes the obligation to facilitate the availability of medical technologies, vaccines and essential medicines among others, to people in economically weak countries regardless of their income. This has to be considered in the licensing process. The Charité considers all options to reach this goal ranging from free access to its intellectual property to obligations for the industry“ .
As of today, more than 40 major research universities, including Harvard University, Yale University and the University of California, have adopted socially responsible licensing strategies. This approach includes the promotion of differential pricing, non-exclusive licensing and non-assert policies for the benefit of patients in low- and middle-income countries. But even at these institutions, implementation of their aspirations all too often remains an unfulfilled promise.
We call on the M8 Alliance to take the following steps to foster global access to medical innovations and more research on PRNDs at the M8 universities:
- Prepare a joint declaration promoting the use of socially responsible licensing practices for all research discoveries at M8 universities, thus strengthening the role of the M8 as a forerunner in global health issues.
- Commit to a stronger research focus on poverty related and neglected diseases through cooperative projects (M8 projects).
- Establish a forum to facilitate the exchange of best practices in order to foster more efficient research in the field of global health.
- Support the global convention on research and development as currently discussed by World Health Organization member States (and as consensually appraised by WHS panelists and participants) through a suitable joint statement vis a vis the global community.
UAEM would gladly discuss the stated ideas with the M8 alliance and assist to make them a reality.
As leading research Universities that combine educational and research excellence with a view to improving global health, the M8 should actively participate in solving two of the most devastating problems in global health; they should take meaningful action to close both the access gap and the research gap.