Stories about: Technology Development

Developing cures for neglected diseases: Overcoming the barriers

(scottchan/Fotolia.com)
Who will invest in the clinical development of drugs that offer limited commercial opportunities?(scottchan/Fotolia.com)
The desire to impact areas of great need drives many academic medical researchers. Unfortunately, a variety of challenges can prevent even the most promising innovations and technologies from reaching the patients who would benefit most. When the target population is primarily in the developing world, these challenges are magnified. Only a fraction of research and development funding goes toward treatments that target neglected diseases and the needs of low- and middle-income countries, posing a particularly frustrating situation.

The Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM)’s recent forum on Global Access Licensing of Biomedically Relevant Technologies delved into this pressing issue. According to the UAEM philosophy, the accessibility of medicine to developing nations “depends critically on how universities manage their intellectual property.” Further, the UAEM suggests that obtaining patents means that “anyone who can’t afford the asking price will be unable to access the product” and that “further innovation is hampered or outright blocked.”

In contrast, many of the panelists at the forum didn’t see intellectual property licensing as the primary obstacle—rather, they viewed it as a requirement to attract industry partners.

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Hacking our way to a new mobile app

Brian Rosman holds up a tablet app he and a team of Children's and MIT Media Lab staff developed over the past two weeks during the Health and Wellness Hackathon

At 10 a.m. he’s directing two actors on set, at 10:34 a.m. he’s filling up a catheter and at 11:01 a.m. he’s gushing about the importance of pediatric avatars. Brian Rosman, a Robotic Surgery Research Fellow in the Department of  Urology at Children’s Hospital Boston, has been working non-stop at the MIT Media Lab’s Health & Wellness hackathon to create a new app for post-operative care. His duties have included directing a video about the app, rounding up realistic props and explaining how the program works to judges and hackathon attendees.

Rosman and his team of coders, clinicians and industry professionals are competing against five other teams for a $10,000 prize awarded to the best open source healthcare application.

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Licensing: It’s not just the money

Sometimes promoting a non-money-maker is just the right thing to do. (Photo: iChaz/Flickr)

An article popped up in my Google alerts that gave me some excitement.  A survey from the Association of University Technology Managers, reported in Mass High Tech, placed Children’s Hospital Boston fifth in licensing income among all U.S. hospitals. We were ranked just below the Mayo Clinic, which has more than double the research funding of Children’s. Massachusetts General Hospital was second on the list and Brigham and Women’s was eighth.*

I don’t often get to see quick financial results from my work (I’m the marketing and communications specialist in Children’s Technology and Innovation Development Office (TIDO), which licenses the Hospital’s technologies). But what I do get to see regularly is just as important to our mission: small advances that barely impact the hospital’s bottom line but have a large significance to our patients.

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