U. of California Agrees to Formally Promote 'Global Access' to Its Inventions

March 23, 2012

The University of California system has adopted new guidelines that could help ensure that new medicines and other inventions based on university research are more accessible and affordable in the developing world.

Officials said the change, which would be carried out through university licensing, was partly a response to a years-long campaign by student activists, who have been urging universities to adopt such "global access" licensing policies.

Taylor Gilleland, a biosciences Ph.D. student at UC-San Diego and a member of the Universities Allied for Essential Medicine, said that publicity from the group's recent push to highlight the issues may have helped spur the university to act.

University leaders had long argued that they believed in—and in some cases practiced—global access in their licensing, but didn't see the need to formally adopt the policy. Putting the language in the university's new systemwide guidelines for technology-transfer officials was "a perfect compromise," said William Tucker, executive director of the system's office of innovation alliances and services.

The guidelines not only encourage institutions to use the policies but also remind them that global access could come into play with nonmedical inventions, such as those involving water purification and clean energy.

"We've said to the professionals, 'You should be mindful of these things,'" said Mr. Tucker. "It's a really good idea."

Among other strategies, the guidelines suggest that the institutions require that medicines based on university patents be sold on an "at cost" basis in poor countries.