Patents for Humanity created business incentives for patent holders to engage in humanitarian issues. Under the new program, inventors who do the most to apply their technologies to pressing global challenges will be rewarded with a certificate that can be redeemed to accelerate a patent application, an appeal, or an ex parte reexamination proceeding before the USPTO. The awardee may choose to accelerate any patent application in their portfolio, not just the humanitarian technology that qualifies for the award.
Companies that participated and won in the challenge received a gift from USPTO — a certificate from the USPTO that lets them advance another patent out of order to speed up an examination to ensure a final decision on the application within 12 months; get an appeal moved up in the queue or start a reexamination of the patent of one of their honorable competitors.
And the Winners Are...
The 2013 awards recognize ten recipients in five different categories. Here is a brief list; read more about their stories below.
subcategory — Medicines & Vaccines
- Gilead Sciences - for making HIV drugs available to the world's poor using a network of generics manufacturers in Asia and Africa.
- University of California, Berkeley - for developing research and license agreements to provide a lower-cost, more reliable way to produce anti-malarial compounds.
subcategory — Diagnostics & Devices
- SIGN Fracture Care International - for distributing low-cost fracture implants to speed healing in developing world hospitals.
- Becton Dickinson (BD) - for creating a fast, accurate TB diagnosis machine and placing 300 systems in 22 High Burden Countries
Category: Food & Nutrition
- DuPont Pioneer - for developing an improved strain of sorghum fortified with more protein and vitamins for use in sub-Saharan Africa.
- Intermark Partners Strategic Management LLP - for extracting edible protein and vitamins from waste rice bran in Latin America.
Category: Clean Tech
- Procter & Gamble - for distributing a small chemical packet which removes impurities and contaminants from drinking water and has purified nearly 5 billion liters worldwide.
- Nokero - for delivering solar light bulbs and phone chargers for off-grid villages through local entrepreneurs.
Category: Info Tech
- Sproxil, Inc - for deploying a system to identify counterfeit drugs with an ordinary cell phone in sub-Saharan Africa.
- Microsoft Corporation - for providing machine learning tools that allow health researchers to better analyze large data sets.
The Award Winning Projects
Of the 35 million people worldwide suffering from HIV, 95% live in developing countries. Gilead produces antiretroviral therapies for the treatment of HIV. They have partnered with a number generics manufacturers in India and South Africa to provide generic versions of their HIV drugs at low cost in developing countries. 3.5 million patients in low- and middle-income countries now receive Gilead based HIV therapy, representing over 40% of all patients in these countries receiving therapy. Gilead also provides staff and resources to support ground operations in developing regions. In the U.S., Gilead works with federal and state governments to expand access to HIV medicines for low-income individuals and those without health insurance.
Artemisinin is a critical anti-malarial drug which is extracted from Artemisia plants in Africa, China and Vietnam. Growing cycles and variations in crop yield produce variable supplies of artemisinin, creating volatility in price and availability. When UC Berkeley researchers engineered a yeast strain that manufactures artemisinin, the Office of Intellectual Property and Industry Research Alliances (IPIRA) crafted humanitarian use terms for their IP licenses and collaboration agreements to address accessibility and affordability in the developing world. The university then partnered with Amyris (a Berkeley spin-out company), the Gates Foundation, the Institute for One World Health, and ultimately Sanofi, to translate the initial research into a production-ready technology.
Ten years ago UC Berkeley launched a program of socially responsible licensing to provide low-cost treatments and technologies to people in developing countries, and nuanced IP management strategies to increase the positive social impact of a new technology. Artemisinin is its most prominent success – Sanofi will release the first semi-synthetic arteminisin based on UC Berkeley’s invention on April 11. But IPIRA has also launched other projects under the program through a combination of “humanitarian use” contract clauses and new business models. These include nutritionally fortified sorghum, a microscope that attaches to a cellphone to allow easy sharing of medical images from the field, portable diagnostic devices, water purification filters, new drug targets and pesticide-free, disease-resistant crops.
WHO estimates that 20 to 50 million people are injured by road traffic and other accidents each year, with 90 percent of those in low-income and middle-income countries. The founder of SIGN created an orthopedic nail for leg and arm fractures that reduces hospital stay and increases mobility. Patients are out of bed sooner so they can continue providing for their families during recovery. The SIGN nail was designed by Dr. Zirkle to be implanted in resource-limited hospitals without need for x-rays or power tools, often lacking in the developing world. SIGN provides affordable or free nails, extensive training of surgeons, and vigilant follow-up to nearly 300 hospitals in over 50 developing countries, benefitting more than 70,000 patients so far. The SIGN Nail offers equality of fracture care throughout the world.
Tuberculosis (TB) caused an estimated 8.8 million illnesses and 1.4 million deaths in 2010, making it the second leading cause of death from an infectious disease worldwide after HIV. The two most common TB tests in the developing world, smear and x-ray, are often inaccurate, leading to misdiagnosis. BD developed the BD™ BACTEC™ MGIT System, a commercial liquid culture system for diagnosing TB that is rapid, accurate, and low-cost. The MGIT System determines which drugs a patient's TB has resistance to, which significantly improves treatment. BD has placed 300 MGIT systems in 22 High Burden Countries where TB cases are high and laboratory access is low, partnering with the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics and the Gates Foundation to lower prices and improve access to the technology.
Sorghum is a staple crop for nearly 300 million people in Africa. DuPont Pioneer has developed genetically improved sorghum with increased levels and stability of pro-vitamin A and enhanced protein digestibility, in addition to improved bioavailability of iron and zinc. DuPont partners with African organizations, especially in Kenya and Nigeria, by providing training and technical assistance to African scientists to incorporate the improvements into local sorghum varieties. Initial work was supported by the Gates Foundation.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 925 million individuals worldwide were malnourished in 2010. Rice bran, a by-product of rice milling process worldwide is high in many essential nutrients, but not suitable in its raw form for human consumption. Intermark developed a process to extract edible foodstuff from rice bran high in antioxidants, nutrients, digestible protein, and carbohydrates. This technology makes available nearly 40 million tons of rice bran each year to reduce malnutrition in developing countries. Intermark is working with the governments of Guatemala, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and El Salvador to deliver the technology through regional production facilities. It has benefited thousands of chronically malnourished children in Latin America so far.
P&G developed a small, inexpensive packet of powder that makes dirty, unsafe water clean enough to drink. A packet the size of a business card dissolves in 10 liters of water to remove 99.99999% of bacteria, 99.99% of viruses, 99.9% of protozoa, and 98% of arsenic, dirt and other pollutants. Over the last decade, P&G has set up over 120 partnerships with NGOs, local and national governments and health organizations to deliver the packets to those in need. To date, P&G has invested more than US$35 million and delivered over 5 billion liters of clean drinking water, preventing an estimated 200 million days of illness and helping to save nearly 30,000 lives.
1.3 billion people in the developing world without electricity use dangerous and expensive kerosene lamps for light, which can account for up to 20% of an impoverished family’s income. Nokero (short for "no kerosene") is a social enterprise that makes low-cost solar lights and other products primarily for the developing world, helping millions of families prevent illness and injury from kerosene fumes and fires. Nokero is a leader in the global movement to relieve this financial burden and make small-scale solar affordable.
In order to bring renewable energy to the far-reaches of the globe, Nokero has also formed alliances with local businesses, governments, and NGOs to solve the difficult distribution challenges and create sustainable commerce. The strategies employed are designed to bring a source of income and economic stability to the people who live in hard-to-reach, off-grid regions where Nokero’s products are needed most. Nokero’s technologies are often sold by local entrepreneurs: at hawker’s markets in South Africa, through bread bakeries in Fiji, by boys on bikes in Nigera, by door-to-door saleswomen in Uganda, and through small hardware stores serving the 18,000 off-grid Navajo households in the US. Since being founded in 2010, Nokero has impacted millions of lives in more than 100 countries, and is working toward the goal of completely replacing kerosene lamps with solar-powered light.
According to the International Policy Network, over 700,000 people die annually from fake tuberculosis and malaria medicines alone, and the counterfeit drug market is estimated at $200 billion. Sproxil’s solution allows consumers to verify that products are genuine by using a mobile phone and a free text message. The solution is deployed in developing regions of Africa and Asia – it is offered in India, Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana. As of February 2013, over 3.5 million products had been verified using the MPA Solution. Sproxil has won awards from the Clinton Global Initiative and IEEE.
Infer.NET is a machine learning tool that simplifies the task of finding relationships in large data sets with Bayesian inference. It is being used for research in epidemiology, genetic causes of disease, deforestation, and asthma, as well as many other areas. Microsoft makes Infer.NET freely available for non-commercial research purposes and helps outside groups use the tool effectively, including researchers at Harvard University, University of Cambridge, University of Manchester, Heidelberg University and Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.
The application field was very competitive and there were many great submissions that we could not recognize. These honorable mentions represent the finest such entries that deserve special recognition for their work. Efforts like these to improve the lives of the less fortunate with game-changing technology are vital to overcoming the global challenges facing humanity.
Category: Medical — subcategory Medicines & Vaccines
- Novartis, for developing a new drug combination to treat malaria and distributing it with public sector partners in malaria-endemic countries.
- Anacor Pharmaceuticals, for researching and licensing a new drug candidate for African sleeping sickness, a neglected tropical disease.
Category: Medical — subcategory Diagnostics & Devices
- GE Healthcare, for creating affordable manufacturing plants to locally produce vaccines and blood products in developing regions.
- Northwestern University, for developing a quick, simple HIV test to screen newborns in Africa.
Category: Clean Tech
- EnterpriseWorks (Relief International), for creating a portable, affordable rainwater collection and storage tank to supply clean drinking water.
- Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, for developing and commercializing a low-cost water treatment plant in India to sterilize water with ultraviolet light.