From IP Watch:

Universities play an enormous role in biomedical research in the United States, but are not doing all they can to advance research for neglected diseases or make their innovations available to people who need them most, the student groupUniversities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM) said this week. UAEM released the results of its second annual university report card.

The University Report Card: Global Equity and Biomedical Research grades and ranks leading research universities in the US. The press release is available here.

The report came days before the UAEM Europe 2015 conference, being held in London from 24-26 April.

Founded in 2001, UAEM has grown into an international network of students in medicine, law, public health and related fields with chapters on nearly 100 university campuses in 20 countries. University rankings are being developed in a number of other countries as well.

Finishing first on the US report card was Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, Maryland), followed by: Emory University (Atlanta, Georgia); University of Washington, Seattle; Harvard University; and University of California, San Francisco; Boston University; Case Western University (Cleveland, Ohio); Yale University; Duke University (Durham, North Carolina); and Stanford University. The evaluation was limited to nearly 60 US universities that attracted the highest levels of funding from public biomedical research funding agencies.

For the full rankings see here.

“Universities are major drivers of medical innovation,” it said in the release. “Yet, the University Report Card shows that universities are missing this key opportunity to lead.” One of the problem areas at universities is licensing practices.

UAEM said it is calling for universities to devote more funding to research that focuses on the needs of people in low and middle-income countries. “Universities should increase ‘global access licensing’ of new medical innovations to help encourage low-cost production of new medications globally,” it said.

“Since most universities are public institutions whose medical research is primarily funded by government grants that come from taxpayer dollars, they have a responsibility to ensure their research serves the public interest,” UAEM Executive Director Merith Basey said the release. “They have a unique opportunity to directly support equitable access to medicines from their development on campus.”

The following is from the UAEM press release:

“The University Report Card graded universities on a number of criteria, including innovation, (investing in medical research that addresses the neglected health needs of low- and middle-countries), access (university licensing of medical breakthroughs for commercial development to ensure affordable treatments for people living in low- and middle income-countries) and empowerment (how schools are educating students on global health issues).

Some of the major findings from the 2015 report card include:

● Even the number one ranking school, Johns Hopkins, has crucial areas for improvement, for example with regard to licensing.

● On average, approximately 1.5% of total medical PubMed publications at the top 59 universities have a neglected disease focus.

● Just 17 of the top 59 universities have endorsed detailed, specific standards for socially responsible licensing, and only eight of those prioritize generic production of university-researched medicines for developing countries.

Student advocates noted that alternative licensing models had no negative impact on schools’ ability to fund and conduct research. “What we’ve seen is that when schools license their research in ways that take into account and furthermore protect the health needs of low- and middle-income countries, they are able to save lives and actually encourage rather than inhibit innovation,” said Alexandra Greenberg, a student leader with UAEM.

UAEM obtained the University Report Card data by accessing publicly available sources, such as university websites, online grant databases, and search engines. University officials were also asked to provide data through a survey designed and provided by UAEM. The organization aims to use the University Report Card to advance the accountability and transparency of universities on their research and licensing practices. UAEM is offering to support the universities receiving low scores to address and improve their practices.

“Universities play a key role in conducting research that leads to life-saving medicines,” said Judit Rius Sanjuan, U.S. Manager & Legal Policy Adviser, Access Campaign with Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders (MSF). “University decisions about what research to prioritize – and how to license that research to the private sector – have tremendous consequences for the lives of millions of people around the world.”

The University Report Card seeks to initiate a dialogue with and between universities around measures they can take on their campuses to better ensure equitable access to life-saving biomedical innovations for all. Now more than ever UAEM is calling upon students and faculty members alike to hold their institutions accountable for their public commitments to neglected areas of global health and access to medicines.”

Intellectual Property Watch, a non-profit independent news service, reports on the interests and behind-the-scenes dynamics that influence the design and implementation of international intellectual property policies.