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  • Patent laws key to drug innovation, argues report

[SAO PAULO] Pharmaceutical innovation in middle-income countries such as Brazil and India could be boosted by stronger enforcement of intellectual property laws and by building up research capacity, says a report.

The report by global consultancy Charles River Associates has identified the conditions required to encourage innovation in middle-income countries by evaluating government policies that promote investment in local innovative activities in the biopharmaceutical field.

Commissioned by the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA) — an NGO representing the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and vaccine sectors — the document was released at the 26th IFPMA Assembly last month (31 October).

The report, entitled 'Policies that Encourage Innovation in Middle-Income Countries', focuses on eight countries: Brazil, China, Colombia, India, Malaysia, Russia, South Africa and South Korea.

To enforce intellectual property laws and strengthen pharmaceutical innovation in these countries, the report says that public-private partnerships are needed. It also calls for training and financial tools to help boost scientific capacity and for qualified researchers to work with medical schools and hospitals, which is an important driver of clinical trials.

In addition, the report finds that, although pharmaceutical research and development (R&D) is still concentrated in high-income countries, biopharmaceutical companies have been increasing their investments in Asia and Latin America since 2005, particularly in Brazil, which has also experienced a significant increase in the number of journal articles in medical sciences published over the past decade.

Among the countries analysed, Colombia and Malaysia have the worst rating according to a range of innovation indicators such as biopharmaceutical R&D spend and the number of patents filed, journal articles published and clinical trials carried out. This is largely because they lack a consistent system for securing intellectual property rights, the report says.

 "Having a consistent system for securing intellectual property rights is also critical to establishing legal certainty and an appropriate environment for innovation in developing countries," Alexandre Guimarães from the National Institute of Industrial Property, Brazil, told SciDev.Net. "It's important that these countries are able to use the patent system to increase their share of innovative products."

Germanna Righetto from the University of Campinas's Biology Institute, Brazil, says that, despite its solid performance in academic research, Brazil has not done enough to make use of this knowledge. "An important first step would be to stimulate entrepreneurial thinking and the development of industrially applicable and profitable ideas at universities," she says.

The report's authors have not responded to SciDev.Net's request for comments.