Press Release: Universities Should do More to Advance Biomedical Research for Neglected Diseases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 21, 2015

CONTACT: Leslie Patterson, 646-200-5326, leslie@berlinrosen.com

 

REPORT CARD SHOWS MAJOR UNIVERSITIES SHOULD DO MORE TO ADVANCE BIOMEDICAL RESEARCH FOR NEGLECTED DISEASES

Following the Ebola outbreak in Africa, student advocates and others call for increased accountability from universities to take the lead in addressing neglected global health needs and responding to the access to medicines crises

To view full results for all 59 universities, visit www.globalhealthgrades.org

WASHINGTON, DC—Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM) today is releasing the second University Report Card: Global Equity and Biomedical Research. The University Report card grades and ranks leading research universities in the U.S. on their commitment to biomedical research that addresses neglected global health needs.

The findings reveal that the majority of the country’s major research universities—including leading Ivy League institutions—are not doing enough to advance biomedical research for neglected diseases or to make their life-saving medical breakthroughs available for the people who need them most. Universities are major drivers of medical innovation. Yet, the University Report Card shows that universities are missing this key opportunity to lead.

UAEM is publicly calling for universities to devote more funding to research, which focuses on the needs of people in low and middle-income countries. Universities should increase “global access licensing” of new medical innovations to help encourage low-cost production of new medications globally.

“Since less than a third of new medicines originate in university labs, universities have a crucial opportunity to put people before profit” said Merith Basey, Executive Director of Universities Allied for Essential Medicines, a student-led organization working to make life-saving biomedical innovations and technologies discovered at universities affordable worldwide. “Since most universities are public institutions whose medical research is primarily funded by government grants that come from taxpayer dollars, they have a responsibility to ensure their research serves the public interest. They have a unique opportunity to directly support equitable access to medicines from their development on campus.”

The University Report Card graded universities on a number of criteria, including innovation, (investing in medical research that addresses the neglected health needs of low- and middle-countries), access (university licensing of medical breakthroughs for commercial development to ensure affordable treatments for people living in low- and middle income-countries) and empowerment (how schools are educating students on global health issues).

 

Some of the major findings from the 2015 report card include:

  • Even the number one ranking school, Johns Hopkins, has crucial areas for improvement, for example with regard to licensing.
  • On average, approximately 1.5% of total medical PubMed publications at the top 59 universities have a neglected disease focus.
  • Just 17 of the top 59 universities have endorsed detailed, specific standards for socially responsible licensing, and only eight of those prioritize generic production of university-researched medicines for developing countries.

Student advocates noted that alternative licensing models had no negative impact on schools’ ability to fund and conduct research. “What we’ve seen is that when schools license their research in ways that take into account and furthermore protect the health needs of low- and middle-income countries, they are able to save lives and actually encourage rather than inhibit innovation,” said Alexandra Greenberg, a student leader with UAEM.

UAEM obtained the University Report Card data by accessing publicly available sources, such as university websites, online grant databases, and search engines. University officials were also asked to provide data through a survey designed and provided by UAEM. The organization aims to use the University Report Card to advance the accountability and transparency of universities on their research and licensing practices. UAEM is offering to support the universities receiving low scores to address and improve their practices.

“Universities play a key role in conducting research that leads to life-saving medicines,” said Judit Rius Sanjuan, U.S. Manager & Legal Policy Adviser, Access Campaign with Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders (MSF). “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.”

The University Report Card seeks to initiate a dialogue with and between universities around measures they can take on their campuses to better ensure equitable access to life-saving biomedical innovations for all. Now more than ever UAEM is calling upon students and faculty members alike to hold their institutions accountable for their public commitments to neglected areas of global health and access to medicines.

 

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About UAEM

UAEM (Universities Allied for Essential Medicines) is a non-profit organization rooted in a movement of university students. UAEM seeks to: 1) Promote access to medicines for people in developing countries by changing norms and practices around university patenting and licensing; 2) Ensure that university medical research meets the needs of the majority of the world’s population; 3) Empower students to respond to the access and innovation crises. Since its founding in 2001, UAEM has grown into an international network of students in medicine, law, public health and related fields with chapters on nearly 100 university campuses in 20 countries.The US University Report Card has led to the launch of the first UK Global Health Research League Table in 2015. This League Table ranks the top 25 universities in the United Kingdom. Other countries, including The Netherlands, Germany and Brazil, are considering conducting similar analyses. Find out more at http://uaem.org

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