Washington, DC . Public health officials from 45 nations opened discussion today with pharmaceutical industry representatives, intellectual property specialists and economists on improving the relationship between the global patent system, new drug development, the pricing of drugs, and socially responsible ways of providing access to medicine for people in need.

The conference, Intellectual Property and International Public Health , takes place weeks after the World Trade Organization (WTO) reached an agreement to provide poor nations with greater access to lifesaving medicines by altering international trade rules.

“The government of Paraguay is committed to strengthening intellectual property rights, laws and enforcement. This is an excellent opportunity to increase our knowledge of patent pharmaceutical procedures as well as interact with colleagues from around the world,” notes Camila Maria Imbert Rojas of the Intellectual Property Office of the Paraguayan Ministry of Industry and Commerce.

Organized by the International Intellectual Property Institute (IIPI) with support from Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), this conference provides delegates and presenters with a forum to speak candidly about today’s most challenging public health issues.

South African attorney and IIPI Projects Counsel Lee Gillespie-White says issues discussed at this event are critical in shaping the future of both the world’s healthcare system and charting the course for the pharmaceutical industry. “Finding a better balance between satisfying the needs of the world’s poor and protecting the profit interests of corporations is essential. We want people stricken with illnesses like HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis to have access to the right medicines. But we also want to make sure that companies and laboratories have sufficient incentive to continue their research efforts so these drugs are developed in the first place,” says Gillespie-White.

Intellectual Property and International Public Health continues at Georgetown University through October 8 th. Noted conference speakers include: Ambassador Rita Hayes, Deputy Director General, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO); Dr. Salah Mawajdeh, Director, Jordanian Food and Drug Administration; Alvaro Diaz, Chilean Vice Ministery of Economy; Harvey Bale, Director General, International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Associations; Professor Klaus Leisinger, President, Novartis Foundation; and Robert Mallett, Senior Vice President, Pfizer.

Photo © Gunay Mutlu 2008