World Intellectual Property Organization

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Bridging the gap between industry and those fighting diseases of poverty | 

A new global initiative launched this week in Geneva aimed at combating neglected diseases in poor countries by getting drug companies to share their patents and discoveries can be credited in large part to one Seattle woman’s religious upbringing.

But probably not in the way you think.

Tom Paulson

Melinda Moree and colleague Don Joseph at work in Seattle's Caffe Fiore

“I grew up in a very religious household, with rabid ideology,” said Melinda Moree. “So I do everything I can to make sure any discussion I’m involved in is not driven by ideology but by a pragmatic focus on problem-solving.”

Moree, who I caught up with recently at a coffee shop on Queen Anne, is chief executive officer of BIO Ventures for Global Health. Yes, it’s a fairly boring name but what they do, which I’ll get to in a bit, is quite exciting with the potential for transforming biomedical research and saving millions of lives.

The ideology Moree is currently working against is not rabid religiosity but an ideological rift that she thinks prevents progress in global health. Namely, the ideological gap between the public sector or humanitarian organizations and the profit-seeking drug and biomedical industry.

“There’s been an especially rocky relationship between the private sector and public sector over intellectual property,” she said.

Activists contend patents protect drug company profits at the expense of the lives of the poor. The drug industry, in turn, say activists and humanitarian organizations simply don’t understand that drugs and vaccines don’t just appear by magic. Continue reading