Merck Sustainability Report 2021

Open innovation sharing

TAG overview

We consider it our responsibility to improve global access to health through our technological advances. We support a reliable and transparent legal framework for intellectual property that enables sustainable investment in research and development.

Our approach to sharing and protecting intellectual property

The responsible treatment of intellectual property is not a barrier to health, but rather ensures safety and high quality for patients worldwide. Almost none of the medicines that address the highest burden of disease in low- and middle-income countries are protected by patents. Studies indicate that between 90% and 95% of the pharmaceutical products on the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines are off-patent.

We support a sustainable approach to intellectual property that drives innovation and enables access to health. We are committed to refraining from enforcing patents in a majority of low- and middle-income countries. In markets where we do register product patents, we are transparent and committed to sharing data to the greatest possible extent and improving public access to clinical study data. We report on the patent status of our products via the publicly accessible database Pat-INFORMED. Furthermore, we support voluntary licensing agreements of all kinds, including non-exclusive voluntary licenses, legally binding non-assertion covenants and clauses that aim to widen access to health.

Moreover, we support the concept of patent pools and believe that these should be structured to improve access to medicines, prevent anti-competitive behavior and overcome geographic limitations. We consider joining patent pools that are relevant to our portfolio and meet all our efficacy, quality and safety requirements.

We provide access to patent information via our initiatives and partnerships. Through our open innovation research projects for global health, we grant access to small sections of our chemical compound libraries. In doing so, we aim to accelerate collaborative research programs that develop novel R&D platforms in search of new active ingredients for infectious diseases.

Roles and responsibilities

Our Open Innovation initiatives are collaborative and cross-functional efforts that serve the exchange of intellectual property. We aim to catalyze and accelerate early discovery in diseases with high unmet needs through intellectual property sharing. We hope to foster the discovery of new generations of health solutions that will address the needs of the most vulnerable populations, with a primary focus on the neglected tropical disease schistosomiasis and on malaria.

Our commitment: supporting transparent and reliable frameworks

We support TRIPS, an international agreement administered by the World Trade Organization (WTO), which addresses trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights, as well as TRIPS addenda, such as the Special Declaration on the TRIPS Agreement and Public Health. This agreement extends the deadline for least developed countries to apply TRIPS provisions to pharmaceutical patents until 2033.

Initiative improves access to patent information

We are a founding member of the Patent Information Initiative for Medicines (Pat-INFORMED), a global gateway to medicine patent information. Pat-INFORMED features patent information on small-molecule drugs for cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, hepatitis C, HIV, cancer, and respiratory disorders as well as any products on the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines that are not within these therapeutic areas.

Open innovation collaboration through WIPO Re:Search

We are member of the WIPO Re:Search Consortium. The initiative aims to create new solutions for people affected by neglected tropical diseases, malaria and tuberculosis. It also enables the transfer of knowledge and expertise to institutions in low- and middle-income countries.

Creating research opportunities

Our Open Global Health Library publicly shares 250 compounds from our proprietary chemical library that may be used for infectious diseases research. In 2021, the library was accessed 20 times for screening in 17 indications.

Schistosomiasis research grants

We are dedicated to accelerating innovation and advancing science for the most neglected populations. That is why we catalyze research in an open innovation spirit and with the intention of reducing financial hurdles. Through our Schistosomiasis Research Grant Initiative established in 2021, we awarded 15 research projects with € 30,000 each. More than 70% of the participants came from low- and middle-income countries.

Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative

Under the leadership of the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), we, along with other pharmaceutical companies, are involved in the Drug Discovery Booster project to discover novel medicines against neglected tropical diseases. In October 2021, we signed a memorandum of understanding with DNDi and the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute. It covers the areas of drug discovery and development as well as access activities in the field of schistosomiasis.

More information on our collaborations regarding open innovation for global health can be found on our website.

Neglected tropical disease (NTD)
Neglected tropical diseases affect more than 1 billion people in primarily poor populations living in tropical and subtropical climates in low- and middle-income countries. NTDs include schistosomiasis, intestinal worms, trachoma, lymphatic filariasis, and onchocerciasis. This group of diseases is called neglected because, despite the large number of people affected, they have historically received less attention and research funding than other diseases.
Patent pool
A consortium of at least two competing companies that allows partners to share the use of patents relating to a particular technology.
Schistosomiasis
Schistosomiasis is a chronic condition and one of the most common and most devastating parasitic diseases in tropical countries. Flatworms transmit the disease. It is widespread in regions where large sections of the population have no access to clean water or sanitary installations. People are infected by the parasite when exposed to infested water during routine agricultural, domestic, occupational, and recreational activities. The minuscule larvae penetrate human skin, enter the blood vessels and attack internal organs. The infection rate is particularly high among children. Untreated schistosomiasis can cause potentially fatal chronic inflammation of vital organs as well as anemia, stunted growth and impaired learning ability, all of which have devastating consequences for the lives of children.

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