At the World Health Organization (WHO) Executive Board meeting last month, global health leaders had an opportunity to champion innovation and strong intellectual property (IP) systems – which are especially important as innovators continue to advance solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic and other public health challenges. Two of the countries most vocal in their support of the role of IP, Japan and the United States, are global innovation leaders who appreciate the role these systems play in strengthening societies and economies.
Japan made several had several notable comments on IP and the importance of incentivizing innovation, during relevant sessions:
- In a discussion on expanding access to cancer, rare disease and orphan therapies, Japan noted: “We recognize that access to quality, safe and effective medicines and vaccines is one of the critical factors to ensuring universal health coverage. In cancer and rare and orphan disease treatments, it is critical to ensure access to those pharmaceutical and health technologies, as those products are essential tools. At the same time, it is also critical to ensure incentives to develop new therapeutic tools considering many unmet medical needs in this field.”
- For cell and gene therapy products specifically, Japan said: “in order to increase choices of available products, new guidelines and enhanced regulatory capacity to ensure safety, effectiveness and quality of those products of new modalities are important. At same time, it is essential to ensure incentives to develop these new products.”
- And while discussing implementation of WHO’s Global Strategy and Plan of Action on Public Health and Intellectual Property, Japan underscored that “intellectual property plays a crucial role as an incentive to promote research and development of diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines. Therefore, Japan believes intellectual property should be respected and protected appropriately.”
“Intellectual property should be respected and protected appropriately” – Japanese Delegation at the WHO Executive Board meeting
Collaboration was also an important theme, with both the United States and Japan encouraging engagement with experts from the public and private sectors:
- As noted in the expanding access session, Japan added: “We would also like to point out that dialogue with relevant stakeholders, including stakeholders in industry such as IFPMA [International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Association], is indispensable in promoting activities in this field.”
- The United States echoed the need to partner with experts, noting: “We continue to urge WHO to coordinate with WTO and WIPO on matters related to international trade and intellectual property, as these organizations, respectively, possess the subject-matter expertise in these areas and are charged with administering fundamental aspects of the international trade and intellectual property systems.”
While more leaders had the chance to promote innovation and the IP systems that advance and support it, the supportive remarks made at the WHO Executive Board meeting were notable and served as important reminders. IP and collaboration remain two critical factors in driving innovation that can address our greatest global challenges. We hope to see more nations emphasize these points in future global forums.