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The legal ecology of resistance, or why normal IP rules shouldn't apply to antibiotics

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Pharmaceuticals is one of the sectors where patent law is thought to work best, but for one major class of drugs – anti-infectives – the weaknesses of the patent system are becoming increasingly clear. Anti-infectives decline in effectiveness over time through resistance, driven by evolution. Resistance challenges one foundation of patent theory, namely nonrivalry of knowledge. Horizontal transfer of genetic material also undermines the economic value of patent boundaries in antibiotic molecules, akin to a pollution externality. The result is a growing awareness that the current business model for antibiotics is broken and a search for new approaches. This autumn, the EU IMI will begin a major project to understand the problem and potential solutions.

This talk is part of the Cambridge Infectious Diseases series.

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