Patent pool provides nonprofit cures
Prof. Fan has another weapon against parasites since last summer. That’s when he received a law degree to better understand patents: “Otherwise you face lawsuits.” He hopes that a patent pool will provide a useful platform to address Africa’s neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) which most drug companies are unwilling to address for lack of profit potential.
And of the money that WHO spends on these NTDs (US$90 million was the figure he cited), 77% goes to the “big three” diseases that include AIDS – and exclude parasites. Yet of WHO’s Tropical Disease Research priorities, 11 are parasites and 8 are zoonotic.
“There’s no business interest” in parasites, he said. The patent pool is expected to address this issue because countries will not be required to pay anything in before they can benefit from the resulting patented treatments.
Prof. Fan mentioned developing NTDs drugs with TMU-Shuangho Hospital’s Dr. Yung-Ching Liu, who also offers a program of free exams for travelers. Yet the need exceeds the program’s size, with a half-million Taiwanese returning from work in China who face no screening (although Southeast Asian laborers do). He said it’s “ridiculous” not to check these people, and also was critical that screening of international students extends only to amoebas.
Two years ago he was given an award by the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s chief of infectious diseases – and Prof. Fan used the opportunity to argue for testing of not only foreign students, but also the tens of thousands of Taiwan students who go on international service trips.
He sighed that their universities remain largely clueless about the health threats that these parasites pose – so most of the exposed students are still spreading this problem to their classmates and families.