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Major research donor calls for more openness

Wellcome says findings must be translated into help for the most needy

Mark Gould

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

The Wellcome Foundation, one of the UK's major charitable research institutions, has made it clear that it expects researchers to share their findings as widely as possible and publish them in open access journals.

"This is because we want new and improved interventions to be accessible to the people who need them most," it says.

Wellcome funds over 14,000 people conducting research in 70 countries. It plans to spend some £5 billion over the next five years supporting medical research and innovation.

Wellcome says that worldwide around 2 billion people lack access to life changing medicine and other interventions such as new diagnostic tests, vaccines and therapies

"If the interventions we fund don’t reach the people who need them most, then we can’t fulfil our mission to improve health for everyone," it says.

While barriers to access are complex and numerous, Wellcome believes that ensuring equitable access doesn’t need to come at the expense of continuing innovation, and vice-versa. It accepts that intellectual property rights and commercial reward can play a part in developing and delivering interventions – "but only if they are managed in a way that prioritises health benefit over profit."

It also accepts that the exact mechanisms for increasing access will vary between countries and regions – there is no one-size-fits-all model - but research funders and pharmaceutical companies should use practices like voluntary licensing, patent pooling and equitable pricing to increase access.

Wellcome will also set out what access in good practice looks like for most of their grant holders in their intellectual property and patenting, consent and revenue sharing agreement, and open access policies.

"We’ll publish an annual report on the impact of our funding policies and award conditions to encourage cross-sector discussion on what does and doesn’t work in improving access. We want everyone to be able to know if access initiatives are effective, and how to implement them.

Our access approach will apply to all Wellcome’s activities but will focus on initiatives that will benefit people in low or middle-income countries."

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