Thursday, February 01, 2007

Indonesia Claims "Intellectual Property Rights" Over Bird Flu Strain

A vaccine that could stop humans from becoming infected, upon exposure, to the H5N1 strain was always going to be a gold mine for the pharmaceutical manufacturer, maybe even more of a profit-generator than the shockingly expensive AIDS medications now being bootlegged in India and across parts of South East Asia.

The first sign of coming legal battles over who "owns" deadly strains of avian influenza has now been seen.

From :

The Indonesian Government says Australian company CSL should have sought its permission to develop a bird flu vaccine using the Indonesian strain of the H5N1 virus.

The death told from bird flu in Indonesia stands at 62 and authorities are preparing to enforce strict controls on people raising poultry.

Sweeps begin across Jakarta today to capture and kill any backyard birds not already handed over to authorities.

But news this week that the Australian pharmaceuticals company CSL had developed a vaccine against the H5N1 bird flu virus was met with alarm by Indonesian Health Minister Siti Fadillah Supari.

He says Indonesia is seeking intellectual property rights over the Indonesian strain of the virus on which the vaccine is based.

But CSL spokeswoman, Dr Rachel David, says it is not possible to "own" strains of bird flu.

Dr David also says the vaccine is not being developed for commercial purposes.

"If, and only if, a pandemic flu was to become a problem, that particular amount of money in that contract is fixed," she said.

"It's not something we can profiteer out of and in fact it's not something that we see as being a commercial exercise at all."

Dr David has refused to do further media interviews on the advice of the Australian Government, which says it is a diplomatic matter.

Two very interesting points from this story are CSL's claims that they do not view a bird flu vaccine as being "a commercial exercise."

The Australian government funded the first round of CSL's development of their claimed successful vaccine at a cost of around $8 million, relatively small change compared to what the Australian government has spent, or has committed to spending, on stockpiling anti-virals - at least $200 million.

The second quite bizarre point to be highlighted is that CSL will no longer do media interviews on the advice of the federal government. This sounds like the government has basically told the company to shut up about a vaccine that the government used taxpayers money to fund the development of.

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