Fall 2018 Speaker Series - October 17 : Achieving Equitable Access to Vaccines: From Policies to Provisions

Julia Barnes-Weise, Executive Director of the Global Healthcare Innovation Alliances Accelerator (GHIAA) and a Senior Consultant to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) will discuss the challenges of achieving equitable access to vaccines in preparation for and in times of outbreak and CEPI’s approach in working towards its objectives.


A series of discussion-based events held in summer 2017, in collaboration with the Harvard Global Health Institute, the GAiA brown bag series facilitated conversations among researchers, scholars, practitioners, and others engaged in the development of legal and policy frameworks that govern innovation and global commercialization of medicines.

Potential Uses of Miniature Spectrometers to Mitigate the Health Crisis in Developing Countries

DATE 6/12/2017

SPEAKER William Fisher, WilmerHale Professor of Intellectual Property Law and Faculty Director, Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society


Fisher explained the issues that counterfeit and other substandard medicines cause, and illustrated how deploying drug-quality assessment technology like miniature spectrometers would increase the government’s ability to regulate drug distribution and empower individuals to confirm the authenticity of the drugs they purchase, ultimately increasing the use of therapeutically effective medicines. He outlined a pilot project in Namibia being initiated to use this new technology in reducing distribution of falsified or degraded antimalarial medications.

Fisher's talk sparked a rich discussion on the practical considerations and technical limitations of the initiative, as well as the implications of utilizing this technology as a tool to enforce IP laws across borders.

Expanding Access to Medicines and Promoting Innovation: A Practical Approach

DATE 6/26/2017

SPEAKER Quentin Palfrey, GAiA Co-director


Palfrey outlined three obstacles GAiA seeks to address to reduce disparities in access to medicines: insufficient incentives for research and development, lower-income individuals being priced out of the market, and polarization and paralysis around access to medicines solutions. In response to these obstacles, Palfrey detailed three practical strategies used successfully by pharmaceutical companies to increase access to medicines for the global poor: differential pricing, non-exclusive licensing agreements, and patent pooling. These strategies create win-win-win scenarios for all stakeholders by increasing access to life-savingmedicines for low-income individuals, allowing humanitarian entities to make a greater impact with limited budgets, and providing pharmaceutical companies the opportunity to greatly increase access to medicines with the potential to break even or make a modest profit.

Palfrey’s talk inspired discussion on intra-country differential pricing strategies, lessons learned from the Ebola epidemic about global collaborative research, and alternative incentive mechanisms for the development of drugs for diseases that primarily affect low-income populations.

See here for the complete session, or click on the links below to view the different topics discussed:

Global Data Flows and the Implications for Health Access in Developing Countries

DATE 7/17/2017 

SPEAKER Mark Wu, Assistant Professor, Harvard Law School, Director, Berkman Klein Center and GAiA Co-director


Wu presented on how policies regarding the global governance of cross-border data flows are currently being debated on national and international levels. The ongoing discussion pits those who seek to ensure free flow of data against those who believe that the government has a legitimate right to regulate and fear the consequences of over-concentration of data in the hands of private, and often foreign, corporations.

The rules and regulations governing this digital commerce have important implications for healthcare. With increased digitalization and global data flows, the future holds promise for health access improvements,  including increased access to specialized interventions, improvements in data analytics for precision medicine, remote monitoring of medical conditions, easier sharing of electronic health records, and cross-border collaboration between healthcare facilities. Developing countries with under-resourced health systems stand to benefit tremendously from these services, especially as the digital divide between developed and developing countries continues to shrink. However, these countries have not been playing an active role in negotiations to determine the governance of health information. Wu argues that their participation in the formulation of these rules is vital given the long-term impact on developing and developed countries alike.

Wu’s talk inspired a rich discussion on data localization and healthcare, how we define what types of data should be free and for what purposes, at what level these regulations should be designed and implemented, and how rules shaped in the coming decade on data flows will impact the future of e-health services globally.

Trump’s America First Trade Agenda: What It Means for Access to Medicines

DATE 7/24/2017

SPEAKER John Stubbs, Affiliate, Berkman Klein Center


Stubbs led a discussion about the global effects of President Trump’s ‘America First’ trade agenda on access to medicines. The agenda is centered around economic growth and job creation, with a key objective being to ensure that US owners of IP have a full and fair opportunity to use and profit from it. As part of this objective, President Trump has made a priority of reducing prices for Americans first over “freeloading” countries, leveraging America’s market power to make the rest of the world pay more for pharmaceuticals and Americans pay less.

Pushing for policy to reduce foreign price controls is not new, and has been common practice the last 30 years, driven by the idea that foreign price controls reduce the resources of American drug companies to finance research and development of new drugs. What is unique for this administration is the type of political rhetoric surrounding this policy agenda. This protectionist rhetoric takes a more direct stance on putting America first, complicating trade negotiations. As the administration continues to develop its trade policy priorities, uncertainty remains high as to what effect the intensified political rhetoric will have on global access to medicines.

Stubbs’ talk inspired a discussion on regulatory harmonization and compulsory licensing, as well as a conversation on how trade agreements can prevent changes in legislation, and implications for the USTR enforcement agenda and 301 Priority Watch List.