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First drug company to dive into the HIV patent pool may help others take the plunge

Cross posted from Nature Medicine’s Spoonful of Medicine blog on behalf of Hannah Waters.

Just shy of its one-year anniversary on 16 July, a major international patent sharing organzition has signed up its first industry partner. The Californian drugmaker Gilead Sciences agreed this week to license four of its HIV drug patents — tenofovir, emtricitabine, cobicistat and elvitegravir — along with a combination of the four, dubbed the Quad.

The Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) was established last year by UNITAID as a way to license intellectual property on antiretroviral drugs to generic manufacturers in developing countries. This scheme, organizers hope, will help bring more advanced medications to the world’s poor and encourage drug manufacturers to develop formulations for children. In exchange for sharing patent rights, contributors receive public recognition for working towards global health and a 5% royalty on all sales.

The first patent contributor to the effort was the US National Institutes of Health, which licensed the patent for the protease inhibitor darunavir against HIV to the pool in September 2010. Despite the urging of advocates, that single drug license was apparently not enough pressure to lure big pharma to sign up. But Gilead’s support may compel other companies to follow step.

“This is not just a one-off. The whole field is changing,” the MPP’s Ellen ‘t Hoen told Reuters. “There will be more to follow.”

For a Q&A with ‘t Hoen conducted shortly after the patent pool was established, see our interview from last year.

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