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On 21 April, Nature published an editorial that criticised universities for creating obstacles to identifying drugs for 'neglected diseases'. Neglected diseases, such as Chagas disease and schistosomiasis, are so called because they mainly affect the developing world and receive little funding for research and development.

Nature's criticism was not stern enough, writes Dave Chokshi, of the University of Oxford, United Kingdom, in a letter to the editor in this week's issue.

Chokshi argues that universities should not protect their patents so strongly. If a patent for the discovery of a new molecule has not been licensed to an external agency for development, universities should allow non-profit organisations to use the molecule in research on neglected diseases, he says.

He goes on to say that if it has been licensed, universities should make sure the license includes an exemption for research on neglected diseases.

Chokshi argues that the criteria for academic promotion should include efforts to find treatments for neglected diseases — such as participating in open-source initiatives — in addition to the usual focus on publications and grants.

Link to full letter in Nature