WHO boost for research on neglected diseases

Argentinean researcher studying the genetics of the parasite that causes Chagas disease Copyright: WHO / TDR / Crump

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The World Health Organization last week (27 May) agreed to begin work on a strategy to support “needs-driven” research on diseases that particularly affect developing countries.

The resolution was adopted during the 2006 World Health Assembly, which gathered all member nations of the organisation in Geneva last week.

The World Health Organization (WHO) will now convene a working group — open to WHO members, non-members and non-governmental organisations — to identify priority areas for research and development and sources of funding.

The agreement takes into account the findings of a two-year inquiry by the WHO’s Commission on Intellectual Property Rights, Innovation and Public Health.

In line with the commission’s findings, the resolution acknowledges that although intellectual property rights provide an incentive for innovation, this is not enough to encourage companies to develop products to fight diseases that primarily affect the poor in developing countries.

The resolution follows a proposal made in January by Brazil and Kenya to create a new global framework for essential health research and development (see Brazil and Kenya push for neglected-disease research).

The proposal was initially rejected by the European Union and the United States, but at last week’s meeting the United States decided to back it.

Médecins Sans Frontières has called the resolution a “breakthrough agreement”.

Resolution WHA59.24  [26KB]

Brazil and Kenya’s proposed resolution   [18KB]