IP Delivers Access to Global Solutions

By Aaron Smethurst

Mosquitoes can be one of the peskiest impediments to enjoying the outdoors. Countless times this summer, I found myself swatting away bugs at a barbeque or on a long evening run. For most us, it means nothing more than an annoying itchy bump, and with a little witch hazel, you’ll forget about that mosquito in no time.

But that’s not the case everywhere in the world. In many developing countries, particularly in tropical areas, that one pesky mosquito could carry a malaria-causing parasite that causes illness in more than 200 million and death in more than 650,000 people every year.

Enter Dr. Stephen L. Hoffman, the CEO of the biotechnology company, Sanaria. Dr. Hoffman has spent nearly three decades of his professional career seeking what many other scientists had long given up on: a vaccine that protects people from contracting malaria. And Dr. Hoffman’s company is closer than ever. In a clinical trial at the NIH, Sanaria recently achieved 100% protection against malaria among a small sample of volunteers utilizing their PfSPZ Vaccine. Sanaria is developing the vaccine for two markets: The most important is the global health market, where the vaccine will first be used in mass administration campaigns to eliminate malaria in targeted populations. The second is the highly profitable vaccine products market, where the vaccine will be used to prevent malaria in military and travelers to malarious countries. While Dr. Hoffman predicts it may take up to four years to bring the vaccine to market, one thing will be critical to the future success of the vaccine: intellectual property protection.

Sanaria currently holds patents on many aspects of the PfSPZ product, and intellectual property is critical to ensuring that Sanaria can continue its research. Sanaria’s operations have been almost exclusively funded by grants – from both the government and private organizations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who are most interested in the use of the vaccine in the global health market.  Having patents on the technology will be a critical component to securing the additional hundreds of millions of investment dollars required to commercialize the vaccine for both markets. Importantly, these two markets complement each other; the profits from the vaccine products market will enable Sanaria to provide the vaccine at low cost to the global health market. Without the appropriate intellectual property, Sanaria’s decade of research and development efforts could be stolen out from underneath them, and there would be no motivation to invest in Sanaria, as investors could not recoup their investment.  Intellectual property is indeed critical to the ongoing research and clinical trials needed in order to swiftly bring the vaccine to both markets.

The nay-sayers will tell you just the opposite: that intellectual property prevents those most in need of the vaccine – often in developing countries – from accessing the drug. However, IP laws ensure that Sanaria’s technology is protected every step of the way, which helps guarantee that the vaccine can be on the market and accessible to users in both the developed and developing world alike. In fact, IP ensures that innovators are motivated to develop solutions for critical problems facing populations around the world, ranging from clean drinking water to tuberculosis to malaria.

Interested in hearing more? Join us this Friday, November 8, at our first annual Global IP Summit where you can hear more straight talk from the source. Dr. Hoffman will be presenting on our panel “IP Delivers Access to Global Solutions.” Want to learn more about the Summit? Visit our website or shoot us an email at gipc@uschamber.com.

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