APPROACH AND METHODOLOGY
Student-led negotiation and advocacy will be UAEM's core strategy for securing socially responsible licensing policies throughout the UC system.
UAEM student leaders have brought similar policies to dozens of other major research universities. Now, our UC chapters will research and outline ideal licensing policies for the UC system, then seek meetings with administrators at a variety of levels to negotiate their adoption and implementation. Students will also employ innovative awareness-raising tactics, including campus events, rallies, teach-ins, lectures, and media and civil society outreach. They will also forge alliances with other student groups, faculty, global health and legal experts, and public figures.
IMPLEMENTATION, TIMELINE, AND DELIVERABLES
UAEM recently hired a full-time student organizer to coordinate the work of student leaders on UC campuses statewide. These students are now holding weekly conference calls to share policy research, organizing tactics and advocacy plans. On Feb. 26-27, UAEM will host a statewide summit at which students will craft a coordinated plan for engaging UC administrators on socially responsible licensing.
From March through June, students will pursue meetings with these key officials to make the case for policy change and allay potential concerns. Where appropriate, they will bring in allies and high-profile figures to engage administrators, too. Students are also planning a range of campus events to build support for the campaign across the UC community. If success is not achieved by the end of the school year, students will carry their advocacy over into the fall.
Commitment deliverables include UC-wide adoption of socially responsible policies for medical research licensing, or adoption of individual policies on as many campuses as possible. Ideal policies will commit administrators negotiating licenses with private drug producers to include provisions enabling generic production of essential UC-discovered medicines for low- and middle-income countries where majorities of the population could not otherwise afford them
The U.S. government's substantial investment in university medical research over the past few decades has spurred amazing breakthroughs in treatments for HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, malaria, and other diseases that disproportionately affect the developing world. For HIV/AIDS alone, university researchers were key to the discovery of one out of every three medications approved by the FDA between 1987 and 2007.
Unfortunately, many of these life-saving medicines never reach patients in developing countries, because universities sell exclusive rights to their taxpayer-funded innovations to private companies that bring them to market at prohibitively high prices. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that 10 million people die every year simply because they can't afford or access medicines that already exist. (World Health Organization: 'Equitable access to essential medicines: a framework for collective action.' March 2004)
Modest changes in the way universities license out their medical innovations can help solve this access-to-medicines crisis. Through UAEM's advocacy, Yale, Harvard and dozens of other leading research universities are now writing medical research licenses that allow the swift production and distribution of low-cost versions of university-discovered medicines in the developing world, without impeding the profits that commercial drug developers seek from high-income markets.
The University of California system, however, has yet to establish a policy to ensure that its medical innovations are affordable to developing-world patients. As the largest recipient of NIH research funding and the world's second-largest holder of biomedical patents-including patents for vital global health medicines like the antiretroviral drug Fuzeon and the Hepatitis B vaccine-the UC's lack of socially responsible methods for licensing its discoveries is a major roadblock to global health. (Marks&Clerk U: 'Academia Outpaces Corporate Biotechnology, But Europe Lags US and Asia.' 7 May 2007; UCSF Today: 'Universities, Not Companies, Drive Biotech Advancement.' May 8, 2007)
With a national network of student leaders in medicine, law and global health, and chapters on six UC campuses, UAEM is uniquely positioned to secure the adoption of socially responsible licensing policies across the UC system. UAEM students who attend these universities-and in many cases, help conduct the research that leads to their life-saving discoveries-believe they have a unique right and responsibility to ensure that these medicines reach the millions of developing-world patients who need them most.