Emory Report
December 8, 2008
Volume 61, Number 14



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December 8
, 2008
Getting health discoveries to the developing world

By Mary Loftus

Health discoveries should be used to protect and heal not just the rich, but also the poor. This principle was near to Carolyn Kenline’s heart when she was a graduate student at the Rollins School of Public Health.

So Kenline ’08MSPH became involved with the international student group Universities Allied for Essential Medicines, whose mission is to ensure that drugs and health technologies invented at universities are made available in the developing world and to promote research into neglected diseases.

“This really works at Emory because of our strategic vision, which calls upon us to make a positive transformation in the world,” says Kenline, who now works for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

As part of Emory Global Access Partnership, the local chapter of UAEM, Kenline and other students met with Office of Technology Transfer Director Todd Sherer to see what could be done to increase global access to drugs and technologies developed at Emory.

With Sherer’s encouragement, the chapter decided to form a working group with administrators, faculty and students from across campus.

President Jim Wagner says he is grateful to the students for providing both the “energy and institutional conscience to ensure that these principles were developed and adopted. We are indebted to them for their clear moral thinking and for their persistence.”

The president’s cabinet adopted the guiding principles, and OTT incorporated them into its licensing program.

“Overly restrictive humanitarian licensing policies can scare away potential licensees from the start,” says Jennifer Moore, a molecular physiologist and licensing associate who was one of several OTT staffers to sit on the working group. “Then no one benefits, people in the developing world included.”

As for the guiding principles, Moore says, “the neat thing is, we’ve already done a considerable amount of licensing that one would consider humanitarian-friendly and that aligns nicely with the principles we’ve adopted. To formalize and publish these principles on our OTT Web site (www.ott.emory.edu/For_Inventors/Policies) hopefully will raise awareness around the issue and get more universities and companies interested in pursuing similar initiatives.”

The University is already receiving inquiries about the process.

Wagner says that being explicit about Emory’s technology transfer principles “helps to clarify our intentions in our own minds” and provides guidelines for discussions with outside commercial interests who seek to license and produce products based upon inventions by faculty.

“We have a responsibility to try to remove the barriers — at least the barriers that lie within our power to control — that inhibit world access to technology and ideas that might improve the human condition anywhere,” he says.

Ultimately, Kenline agrees, it’s all about getting these medicines and health care tools “into the hands of the people who need them the most.”