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The World Health Organisation (WHO) has announced details of a new commission that aims to analyse how intellectual property rights affect the creation of new drugs against 'diseases of poverty' in the developing world.

The Commission on Intellectual Property Rights, Innovation and Public Health (CIPIH) will be led by Ruth Dreifuss, former President of Switzerland. The vice-chair will be R.A. Mashelkar, director-general of India's Council of Scientific and Industrial Research.

Leading economists, lawyers, medics, industry representatives and scientists from across the globe make up the remainder of the 10-person committee (for full list, click here).

The pharmaceutical industry has welcomed the announcement. A statement from the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Associations, which represents more than 60 national industry organisations, says that the Commission is "soundly positioned to delve into issues of intellectual property, its interfaces and linkages with pharmaceutical innovation and public health".

The Commission, which has been set up at the request of last year's World Health Assembly, will review existing research, development and innovation efforts directed at diseases that affect the poor. It will then consider how effectively intellectual property regimes and other incentive and funding mechanisms are stimulating research into new medicines against these diseases.

Governments, UN bodies, other international agencies and private sector and civil-society organisations will be consulted in drawing up the report, which will be presented to the WHO Executive Board in January 2005.

Link to terms of reference of the Commission