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OHSU expedites promising new technologies to tackle COVID-19

Leading U.S. universities join together to address public health crisis
closeup shot of gloved hand moving tubes with the word covid on them
OHSU joins other universities, agreeing to nonexclusive, royalty-free licensing of intellectual property rights for most types of technologies during the current pandemic and for a short period afterward. (OHSU/Kristyna Wentz-Graff)

Oregon Health & Science University is joining other universities and academic health centers across the country to relax traditional licensing agreements with the goal of expediting the development of promising technologies to diagnose, treat and prevent COVID-19.

The COVID-19 Technology Development Framework, spearheaded by Stanford, Harvard and MIT, was introduced last week and now includes OHSU along with a growing list of research institutions across the country.

“Intellectual property licensing transactions are not typically accomplished in a matter of days,” said Andrew Watson, Ph.D., senior director of technology transfer at OHSU. “However, the rapid dissemination of technology and intellectual property is in the best interest of public health when we’re trying to contain a global pandemic.”

The newly adopted guidelines provide for nonexclusive, royalty-free licensing of intellectual property rights for most types of technologies during the current pandemic and for a short period afterward.

The goal is to remove barriers preventing widespread use of promising new developments.

Basic science research at OHSU and around the country will be able to build upon concepts generated by other scientists, and companies will face an easier path toward developing technologies to detect, monitor, prevent and treat the disease.

Typically, careful protection of intellectual property is necessary to encourage investment in research and development in the hope of producing new products.

In this case, with a disease that is spreading rapidly and killing tens of thousands of people with no proven treatment and no vaccine, OHSU and other universities are agreeing to modify normal practice to address a public health crisis.

Licensees commercializing new technologies covered by the framework will be required to distribute the resulting products as widely as possible and at a cost that allows broad accessibility.

Universities are trying to do their part in contributing solutions to this global pandemic.  The Food and Drug Administration has already signaled that it intends to fast-track COVID-19 clinical trials and is providing Emergency Use Authorizations for a number of devices.

“Universities are agreeing to a standard, broad-stroke framework for how we are going to open up our intellectual property and technology portfolios,” Watson said. “Most assets in those portfolios that may be useful for treating, testing, preventing or diagnosing COVID-19 will be made available through a much easier process.”

In joining the COVID-19 Technology Development Framework, Oregon Health & Science University commits to the following principles:

OHSU strongly believes that while intellectual property rights can often serve to incentivize the creation of new products, such rights should not become a barrier to addressing widespread, urgent and essential health-related needs. To address the global COVID-19 pandemic, OHSU is implementing technology transfer strategies to allow for and incentivize rapid utilization of our available technologies that may be useful for preventing, diagnosing and treating COVID-19 infection during the pandemic.

To achieve this goal, OHSU is now committing to the following guidelines within the COVID-19 Technology Access Framework:

  1. OHSU is committed to implementing COVID-19 patenting and licensing strategies that are consistent with our goal of facilitating rapid global access. For most types of technologies, this includes the use of rapidly executable non-exclusive royalty-free licenses to intellectual property rights that we have the right to license, for the purpose of making and distributing products to prevent, diagnose and treat COVID-19 infection during the pandemic and for a short period thereafter.  In return for these royalty-free licenses, OHSU is asking the licensees for a commitment to distribute the resulting products as widely as possible and at a low cost that allows broad accessibility during the term of the license.
  2. OHSU is committed to making vigorous efforts to achieve alignment among all stakeholders in our intellectual property, including research sponsors, to facilitate broad and rapid access to technologies that have been requested to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
  3. OHSU is committed to making any technology transfer transactions related to addressing the COVID-19 pandemic our first priority, and to minimizing any associated administrative burdens.
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