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An international organisation is to be set up later this year to assist governments in the developing world to negotiate better deals for drug access, as well as helping researchers to protect their ideas.

Patent and licensing agreements often have a bad name in developing countries, where they are widely associated, for example, with the lack of cheap drug treatments for diseases such as AIDS.

The new body, called the Management of Intellectual Property in Health R&D, will employ a small staff of patent lawyers to give training and free legal advice to governments and researchers in poor countries. It also plans to create free-access databases of patent information relevant to disease such as malaria.

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Reference: Nature 415, 563 (2002)