Universities Allied for Essential Medicines, an organization largely comprised of medical students across the country, is pushing University of California faculty to refrain from signing a new patent agreement until the system takes steps to ensure that medicines developed in its research facilities will be made affordable to those in developing nations.
In the recently decided Stanford v. Roche case, the Supreme Court awarded the rights to a Stanford professor’s research to Roche, a private pharmaceutical company. In response, the University of California sent a letter on November 15 asking faculty to sign a patent agreement with stricter controls over UC’s rights to its own research.
“We are not opposed to the new patent agreement, but we are opposed to life-saving UC-discovered medicines being unaffordable and inaccessible to the world’s poor,” said Taylor Gilliland, a member of the student group and UC San Diego biomedical sciences Ph.D. student in a release by the group. “This open letter tells the UC Office of the President that students, faculty, and staff are united in wanting the University of California to fulfill its mission as a public institution to improve human welfare and make UC-discovered drugs affordable to those in need.”
The group asserts that if the UC system wants stronger rights pertaining to its faculty’s research, that it has an obligation to make the benefits stemming from that research available to low-income patients across the globe. They advocate “Global Access Licensing,” a system already adopted by universities such as Harvard and Yale that only licenses university medical research to commercial drug developers on the condition that resulting products are made available at reduced cost in low- and middle-income nations.
Students have been pushing for adoption of such an agreement for several years, but as yet no action by the University’s Office of the President has been taken. In light of the lack of progress, the student group has been contacting professors and researchers and requesting that their approval of the new patent agreement be withheld until the affordability issue is addressed.