We have a responsibility to improve global access to health through our technological advances. We support a reliable and transparent legal framework for intellectual property that enables sustainable investment in research and development.
Our approach to sharing and protecting intellectual property
The responsible treatment of intellectual property is not a barrier to health, but rather ensures the safety and high quality of medicines for patients worldwide. Almost none of the medicines that address the highest burden of disease in low- and middle-income countries are protected by patents. Studies indicate that between 90% and 95% of the pharmaceutical products on the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines are off-patent.
We support a sustainable approach to intellectual property that drives innovation and enables access to health. We refrain from enforcing patents in a majority of low- and middle-income countries. In markets where we do register product patents, we are transparent and committed to sharing data to the greatest possible extent and to improving public access to clinical study data. We report on the patent status of our products via the publicly accessible database Pat-INFORMED. Furthermore, we support voluntary licensing agreements, including non-exclusive voluntary licenses, legally binding non-assertion covenants and clauses that aim to widen access to health.
We also support the concept of patent pools and believe that these should be structured to improve access to medicines, prevent anti-competitive behavior and overcome geographic limitations. We consider joining patent pools that are relevant to our portfolio and meet all our efficacy, quality and safety requirements.
Through our open innovation research projects for global health, we grant access to small sections of our chemical compound libraries. In doing so, we aim to accelerate collaborative research programs that develop novel R&D platforms in search of new active ingredients for infectious diseases.
Roles and responsibilities
Our Open Innovation initiatives are collaborative and cross-functional efforts that facilitate the exchange of intellectual property. We aim to accelerate early discovery in diseases with high unmet needs through intellectual property sharing. We hope to foster the discovery of new generations of health solutions that will address the needs of the most vulnerable populations, with a primary focus on the neglected tropical disease schistosomiasis and on malaria.
Our commitment: supporting transparent and reliable frameworks
We support TRIPS, an international agreement administered by the World Trade Organization (WTO), which addresses trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights, as well as TRIPS addenda, such as the Special Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health. This agreement extends the deadline for the least developed countries to apply TRIPS provisions to pharmaceutical patents until 2033.
Initiative improves access to patent information
We are a founding member of the Patent Information Initiative for Medicines (Pat-INFORMED), a global gateway to medicine patent information. Pat-INFORMED features patent information on small-molecule drugs for cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, hepatitis C, HIV, cancer, and respiratory disorders as well as any products on the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines that are not within these therapeutic areas.
Creating research opportunities
Our Open Global Health Library publicly shares 250 compounds from our proprietary chemical library that may be used for infectious diseases research. Since its launch in 2020, the library has been accessed 28 times for screening in 18 indications.
We were a member of the WIPO Re:Search Consortium until the initiative was terminated at the end of 2022. Our contributions supported screening and drug discovery activities at institutions in low- and middle-income countries to identify potential investigational candidates to treat neglected tropical diseases, such as schistosomiasis. This initiative also enabled the transfer of knowledge and expertise for research, mainly in and for Africa.
Schistosomiasis research grants
We are dedicated to accelerating innovation and advancing science for the benefit of the most neglected populations. That is why we catalyze research in an open innovation spirit and with the intention of reducing financial hurdles. For example, through our Schistosomiasis Research Grant Initiative, established in 2021, we awarded 15 research projects with € 30,000 each. In 2022, all projects were launched, and interim reports on their progress have been shared.
Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative
We are collaborating with the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) and, through the memorandum of understanding with DNDi and the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, we are continuing our dialogue for research in the field of schistosomiasis. In 2022, DNDi held several expert meetings seeking to establish a target product profile for antischistosomal drugs.
More information on our collaborations regarding open innovation for global health can be found on our website.