Sunday, March 05, 2006

Affordable Stem Cell Therapy?

Merrill Goozner, Director of the Integrity in Science Project, says that the US3Billion stem cell research program in California (California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM)) may be the model opportunity for the US to regain leadership in biomedical innovation as well as provide for affordable stem cell therapies. His article is entitled, "Innovation in Biomedicine: Can Stem Cell Research Lead the Way to Affordability?" and will appear in the May issue of the Public Library of Science: Medicine. Government funded research has the mission to deliver affordable medical therapeutics to its citizens as well as be hospitable to innovation. But because of current patent policies, new technologies come to market at the highest prices. This is why it is reasonable to be concerned about putting public funds into new biomedical researches: Why should public money be invested in therapies only the wealthy will be able to benefit from?

A UK report claims that since 1994, 18,000 stem cell patents, two-third in the US, have been issued. This is described as a “patent thicket problem” and seriously slows the pace of innovative research and it promises costly therapies since companies want to recover money spent at the development level. Goozner wonders whether all grant recipients could agree to donate exclusive license to a common patent pool supervised by a new non-profit organization set up for that purpose. Patent pools have worked in other technologies, like open source software. Patent pools could also work in biomedicine.

While the article concerns developing new therapeutics in the advanced industrial world, it is applicable to developing drugs for neglected diseases.

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