“The University Report Card helps illuminate the effects of academic biomedical research on the health of the world’s poor, and hold universities accountable for the impact, or lack of impact, that their policies have on global health. I am grateful to the students of UAEM for creating the scorecard, and strongly encourage students, faculty, and broader university communities to call on their institutions to enact policies that increase access to lifesaving medicines and medical technologies for those who need them most.”
- Dr. Paul Farmer
The University Global Health Impact Report Card evaluates the top U.S. and Canadian research universities on their contributions to urgent global health research and access to treatment worldwide.
A project of Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM), the Report Card uses publicly-available and self-reported information to evaluate three key questions:
- Are universities investing in innovative medical research that addresses the neglected health needs of low-income communities worldwide?
- When universities license their medical breakthroughs for commercial development, are they doing so in socially responsible ways that ensure those treatments reach developing world patients at affordable prices?
- Are universities educating the next generation of global health leaders about the crucial impact that academic institutions can have on global health through their research and licensing activities?
WHY IS THIS NEEDED?
Universities are major drivers of medical innovation. Between 1/4 and 1/3 of new medicines originate in academic labs, and universities have contributed to the development of one out of every four HIV/AIDS treatments.
This key research role gives universities huge potential to advance global health. But the size and scope of their impact depends on decisions about where to focus research, how to share new discoveries, and what to teach a rising generation of young global health leaders.
More than 1 billion people worldwide suffer from “neglected diseases” – illnesses rarely researched by the private sector because most of those affected are too poor to provide a market for new drugs. Even worse, 10 million people die each year simply because they can’t get life-saving medicines that already exist – often because those treatments are just too expensive.
Universities can use their unique positions as public-interest, largely publicly-funded research institutions to address both challenges. By prioritizing research on global diseases neglected by for-profit R&D, they can pioneer new treatments that will benefit millions in the developing world. And by sharing their medical breakthroughs under open, non-exclusive licenses or licenses that promote lower prices in developing countries, universities can help poor patients worldwide access new, life-saving treatments.
Some universities are already taking these steps – along with teaching students about the challenges of neglected disease innovation and treatment access. But few have tried to systematically measure universities’ contributions in this vital area. The University Global Health Impact Report Card aims to fill that gap.
WHAT ARE OUR FINDINGS?
Innovation/Neglected Disease Research:
- On average, less than 3% of 2010 research funding at the top 54 U.S. and Canadian universities was devoted to research projects focused on neglected diseases like Chagas disease, sleeping sickness, worm-based infections (helminths), and unaddressed treatment needs for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.
- On average, 2.26% of capacity-building grants (such as research centers, training programs, etc.) in 2010 had a neglected disease focus.
- 10 of the universities evaluated have a research center dedicated specifically to neglected diseases.
- There is substantial variation among institutions in the percentage of research and capacity-building grants devoted to neglected diseases, ranging from a low of 0% to a high of 24%. This suggests that universities can take independent actions to increase their ND research funding, despite potentially limited funding sources or external resources.
Access/Socially Responsible Licensing:
- 21 evaluated universities have endorsed detailed, specific standards for socially responsible licensing, but only four provide in-depth information about these licensing standards on their Technology Transfer websites.
- On average, 51-60% of all research licenses granted by evaluated universities are non-exclusive. According to self-reported data, the proportion of non-exclusive licenses specifically for medical technologies is lower: 31-40% on average.
- Self-reporting universities rarely seek to patent their technologies in developing countries, at least within the first year of disclosure, meaning that generic drug manufacturers could develop affordable developing-world medical products from these discoveries without fear of patent restrictions. Even in the emerging BRICS economies (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa), universities sought patents on new technologies less than 9% of the time, and less than 2% for all other low- and middle-income countries.
- Inclusion of provisions to promote global affordability in exclusive licenses was disappointingly rare at reporting institutions: on average they were included less than 11% of the time. However, there was significant variation here, with a small group of universities regularly employing access terms in their exclusive licenses (up to 75% of the time).
- One third of self-reporting institutions said they have shared best practices for socially responsible licensing with other universities.
- The number of universities willing to self-report data on patenting and licensing metrics was significantly lower than for the innovation and empowerment sections.
- Every evaluated university offers a global health program or study track of some sort, though the nature, scale and focus of these offerings very widely – from summer travel programs to full-fledged global health-specific graduate degrees.
- More than 9 in 10 evaluated universities are conducting global health research or training programs funded by the NIH’s Fogarty International Center. These vary widely in proportion to a given institution’s total NIH funding, from a low of 0.02% to a high of 2.09%.
- 35 institutions (64%) offered at least one course focused on neglected diseases in the past year. Courses on intellectual property (IP) and global health were rarer, with 21 universities (39%) found to offer at least one class addressing this area.
- Of the 28 evaluated institutions that self-reported in this section, 22 hosted at least one campus event in the past year that addressed neglected diseases or global health-related IP, with 8 holding events addressing both topics.