Anne Muigai, a Professor of Genetics in the Department of Botany, JKUAT, has published an article in Nature Journal. The article titled; Expanding Global Access to Genetic Therapies, highlights the hindrance of global access to genetic therapies due to intellectual property and pricing practices in the field.
In the article, Prof. Muigai notes that the treatment of rare genetic diseases is costly (currently ranging from USD 373,000 and USD 2.1 million) and calls for the scientific community to look for innovative ways to ensure human genome therapies are developed in ways that will allow them to reach patients of rare diseases, many of whom are found in developing countries.
“The era of genetic therapies — both gene-editing treatments and gene therapies, several of which are now on the market — has arrived for rare disease. But as more of these therapies come online, it is time to explore how current business models based on patents and restrictive licensing limit access to treatments,” writes Prof. Muigai
She further posits that it is time to explore whether there are other ways in which patents can still reward innovators and protect investments while ensuring that the widest number of patients who need these treatments can receive them.
Prof. Muigai was part of the World Health Organisation (WHO) global multi-disciplinary professional panel of the 18-member advisory committee on developing global standards for governance and oversight of human genome editing.
The committee produced a Position Paper on Human Genome Editing and one of the recommendations to WHO in nine discrete areas was on intellectual property, urging WHO to; “(i) work with others to encourage relevant patent holders to help ensure equitable access to human genome editing interventions; (ii) encourage industry to work with resource-constrained countries to build capacity to take advantage of human genome editing inventions; and (iii) convene a meeting of those holding or applying for patents relevant to human genome editing, industry bodies, international organizations, such as the World Intellectual Property Organization and the World Trade Organization, and those involved in establishing or running relevant patent pools to explore the potential for the adoption of appropriate ethical licensing requirements.”
Citing the successful application of patent pools in the development of ARV drugs for use in developing countries that provided access to HIV treatments to thousands of patients who would otherwise not have been treated, Prof. Muigai believes such success stories should spur the exploration of innovative ways to ensure the successful genetic therapies under development are broadly inclusive for patients, regardless of where they are located in the world.
This is the second time Prof. Muigai is being published in the prestigious Nature Journal. In 2016, jointly with her collaborators from Cambridge University, she published a paper titled, Inter-group violence among early Holocene hunter-gatherers of West Turkana, Kenya.
The paper documents the discovery of fossilised bones of a group of prehistoric hunter-gathers, probably members of an extended family who were violently killed approximately 10,000 years ago in Nataruk, 30 km west of Lake Turkana, Kenya.
Prof. Muigai is a molecular population geneticist with over 19 years experience. She holds a doctorate degree in Population Genetics and Molecular Biology and was the founding chairperson, Department of Botany, JKUAT.