Meet Prof Jim McKerrow, Principal Investigator DNDi

Prof Jim McKerrow is principal investigator of one of DNDi’s discovery projects that seeks to optimise inhibitors of the drug target cysteine protease inhibitors to generate lead compounds capable of acting against the sleeping sickness parasite.

Prof McKerrow is an open-source protagonist. His ‘Low Hanging Fruit (LHF)’ website is an open-source database where data from the drug/compound screens originating from the Sandler Center for Basic Research in Parasitic Diseases is shared with the parasitology and drug-development communities.

He gives us his views on patents, transfer of knowledge, and government support:

Patents on basic research of drug R&D for neglected diseases Primarily unnecessary and a hindrance unless they cover technology or drugs with "crossover" to marketable commodities that might interest a company in helping with the neglected disease side of things.

Current stance of US universities regarding transfer of knowledge for neglected diseases research Variable, in some instances they have not separated the issues relevant only to profitable diseases  f the developed world from consideration of the special circumstances surrounding neglected diseases. We are working on changing attitudes.

Reason for current paucity of translational research in neglected disease Simply lack of funding. Plenty of research people want to pursue this.

Role of scientists in mobilising increased R&D for neglected disease Largely untapped but many people are working behind the scenes.

Importance of increased government support to boost innovation for neglected disease Definitely needed from governments in the developed world.

DNDi’s Intellectual Property Policy puts patients first

DNDi considers its output to be public goods. After all what use is a new drug if it does not reach those who most need it?

Our IP policy attempts to find the right mix of practicality aligned with DNDi’s beliefs and mission. We have tried to be flexible and realistic, and when the need arises, will make decisions on the possible acquisition of patents, ownership and licensing terms on a case-by-case basis.

An illustration of our IP policy at work is DNDi’s agreement with sanofi-aventis:
The company will manufacture a fixed-dose artesunate-based combination for malaria developed by DNDi, artesunate-amodiaquine, on a non-exclusive basis – i.e., patent free – and make it available in 2006 to governments of disease endemic countries, NGOs and international organisations at less than a dollar per adult treatment and less than 50 cents per paediatric treatment. For DNDi, the needs of neglected patients will always come first.

Patients before patents: Global calls for a generic drug to counter Avian Flu

The world is frantically preparing for a possible catastrophe brought on by the avian flu virus H5N1. The race is on to produce a hybrid vaccine virus to immunise people against the disease – Hungary has developed a vaccine, currently being tested. Meanwhile, Swiss firm Roche holds the patent for oseltamivir (marketed as Tamiflu®), first-line treatment for the disease. Trouble is it cannot produce enough of it for the countries that wish to stockpile the drug.

After initial reluctance to let other companies produce the drug, Roche has recently given in to calls for a cheaper version to be manufactured by eight generic firms in India, Thailand, Taiwan, China etc.

Putting patients before patents, many countries are exercising their right to compulsory licensing so that they, too, can be ready with drugs for their people if and when the flu strikes.

Published by Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative - 1 Place St Gervais 1201 Geneva Switzerland
Editor: Jaya Banerji - Tel: +41 22 906 9230 - Fax: +41 22 906 9231 -