The Role of IP in Achieving the UN SDGs

In 2015, countries across the globe adopted 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) intended to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. The growth of the global biotechnology sector and the rate of innovation in the biopharmaceutical space over the past few decades have contributed a great deal to the achievement of these goals, particularly SDG 3, ensuring healthier lives, and SDG 8, economic growth. Diseases that were once deadly have become treatable and, in some cases, curable. In addition, due to the globalization of the biotechnology industry, biotechnology hubs are sprouting up around the globe and growing at unprecedented rates. Progress in the biopharmaceutical space is in large part due to the complex and highly collaborative ecosystem of the biotechnology sector, which relies on partnerships between academia, small and medium sized enterprises and large multinationals.

 

While these researchers continue to work diligently to tackle the SDGs, they are facing ever increasing obstacles by countries that are implementing policies that undermine intellectual property rights. These pre-commercial micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) rely on their intellectual property as their main asset to attract investment to fund high quality research through the many stages necessary to ultimately develop a safe an effective drug or treatment. Policies, such as compulsory licensing for example, stifle innovation by deterring investors from investing in hopeful research, opting to put their investments in other economic fields. If not contained, this ultimately will results in a less sustainable research environment and thus, ironically places the attainment of Sustainable Development Goal 3 in jeopardy for generations to come.

 

Furthermore, these policies directly impact the pursuit of SDG 8 by obstructing the growth of domestic biotechnology industries. Identified as a key growth sector, the expansion of the biotechnology industry can provide highly skilled manufacturing, supply chain, and research jobs.  However, without the necessary policies in place to foster the growth of the industry, countries across the globe will not realize these valuable employment opportunities and economic progress.

 

The recent trend of promoting compulsory licensing in places such as Malaysia, Russia and across Latin America are particularly worrisome to researchers who are desperately trying to get funding to continue their research. If we are serious about tackling the SDGs, the public and private sectors need to work together to implement the policies necessary for the sustainable growth of the biotechnology industry.