Many today are accustomed to the idea that access to medicines and medical innovation are conflicting principles, and that without patents awarding monopoly rights we will be unable to develop any new medicines at all. But this patent-driven approach keeps prices much higher than the cost of research and manufacturing and restricts much needed innovation, meaning many do not have access to the medicines they urgently need. The system of patents and monopoly rights exists for historical reasons, not because it is the best or only option. There are other systems. That is why we, through the iMed (Innovating Medical Entrepreneurship and Delivery) project, are researching and developing alternatives.

During the course of our research, we have identified four broad funding mechanisms for medical research and development: grants, monopoly rights, prizes, and remuneration rights. We believe remuneration rights are the best way of incentivising innovation and maximising access. We are focusing our efforts here because it allows both innovation and access to flourish, rather than structuring them in conflict.

Historically, there has been a lot of complexity and confusion in this line of work. With the generous support of the Rockefeller Foundation, we hope to clear up some of this confusion and more clearly map this field. We want to demonstrate that there are viable, and likely better, funding alternatives to today’s patent-driven system that do not treat innovation and access as opposing principles. To do this we are developing a series of white papers and communications materials to engage relevant stakeholders in this discussion, as well as hosting a high-level event in 2018 to bring these stakeholders together.

The iMed project is a part of Art / Earth / Tech; we seek to offer a new way of living and understanding modern life that allows participation in contemporary society while pursuing wiser and weller ways of living. We are a group of technical and artistic individuals, forming a collective community providing space to collaborate and communicate on creating this wiser, weller world.