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[ARUSHA, Tanzania] A new centre has been launched to train biomedical and health researchers in developing countries in handling all aspects of intellectual property.

The Centre for the Management of Intellectual Property in Health Research and Development (MIHR), which will be based in London, will seek to address the inequity in health research resulting from poor countries’ lack of the financial and legal resources needed to use intellectual property to best serve their own needs.

The initiative was launched at the annual conference of the Global Forum for Health Research, in Arusha, Tanzania. It will provide training courses in intellectual property primarily for researchers in the public sector, although its services will also be offered to researchers in the private sector when necessary.

The centre's first training programme, which will benefit 16 research institutes in South Africa, will kick off early next year.

"South Africa has been selected as the first beneficiary of this programme because it has been [particularly] active in biomedical research," said the organisation's chair Suryanarayan Ramachandran, a former secretary of India's Department of Science and Technology.

MIHR, which has received an initial grant of US$1.5 million from the Rockefeller Foundation, is planning to provide similar training in research institutes in other developing countries, and also aims to encourage institutes in rich countries to negotiate licensing agreements that better meet the needs of poor nations. It will also offer advice to governments and others on intellectual property issues.

"Good management of intellectual property is fundamental to the development of new drugs and vaccines for diseases of the poor," said Edward Ayensu, an MIHR board member and chairman of the Ghana's Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. "MIHR will increase the capacity of public-sector research groups in developing countries to navigate their way around the complexities of intellectual property laws".

Gerald Keusch, director of the Fogarty International Center, United States, discounted fears that the centre would duplicate similar initiatives being undertaken by the African Regional Industrial Property Organisation (ARIPO).

"The global trend is to looking into ways in which organisations can work in a complementary manner," he said. "This centre seeks to complement what ARIPO has been doing."

The centre's priorities will be decided by some of the 24 members of the centre's committee of interested parties, which includes the Indian Council for Medical Research, ARIPO, the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Association and the Fogarty International Center.

Related external links:

African Regional Industrial Property Organisation
Centre for the Management of Intellectual Property in Health Research and Development
Fogarty International Center
Global Forum for Health Research Arusha meeting
Indian Council for Medical Research
International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Association
Rockefeller Foundation
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