Medical Research and Development Treaty (MRDT)


A Medical Research and Development Treaty (MRDT) would be a binding international treaty which commits participants to a certain level of funding on medical R&D. This funding could be discharged flexibly, through direct funding, tax incentives, remuneration rights or other means.1

Originally called the Medical Innovation Convention (MIC),2 the project to draft such a treaty began in 2002. A draft was produced in 2005 by the Consumer Project on Technology (CPTech), led by James Love.3

To incentivise innovation on neglected areas, credits would be offered on priority research which would then count towards a country’s minimum commitment.4

Participants in MRDT would not be subject to existing rules on intellectual property and patents, including the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement.5

The MRDT would be administered by a governance body within the WHO called the Assembly for Medical Research and Development (AMRD). This would administer the treaty, set priorities and periodically reassess funding levels.6



Scope: The MRDT would cover all aspects of R&D and all areas of health.

Access: MRDT would increase the funding available for R&D, and it would sidestep international agreements on intellectual property rights. Medicines would probably get cheaper therefore. There is no explicit incentive for distribution in the MRDT (though as it allows for multiple kinds of funding, it is possible that some MRDT funding would include such provision.)

Innovation: Incentives are partially linked to health impact, in that credits are provided for priority diseases. However, there is no comprehensive link to health impact.

Efficiency: MRDT would be funded progressively through income-proportionate contributions by governments. It is not market-based.

Governability: The MRDT would be substantially decentralised, with a central governing assembly to set priorities and funding levels. It is unclear how the treaty would be enforced.

Political Feasibility: An MRDT would coexist with the patent system, making it easier to implement. However it would also sidestep TRIPS, which might be unpopular.

Relation to other proposals

Political strategy


The proposal: “Medical Research and Development Treaty: Discussion Draft 4,” 2005.

Further details on the proposal:

“Medical Research and Development Proposal.” Accessed July 7, 2017.

Hubbard, Tim, and James Love. “A New Trade Framework for Global Healthcare R&D (Global Healthcare R&D).” PLoS Biology 2, no. 2 (2004): e52. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0020052.

Resources: “Trade Framework for Funding Research and Development.” Accessed July 7, 2017.


Dimasi, Joseph A., and Henry G. Grabowski. “Patents and R&D Incentives: Comments on the Hubbard and Love Trade Framework for Financing Pharmaceutical R&D,” 2004.

Hubbard, Tim. “Reply to the Comments Requested by IPIH and WHO to the CPTech Proposal for a Medical Research and Development Treaty (MRDT),” 2005.

“The Medical Innovation Convention: A New Global Framework for Healthcare Research and Development.” Open Knowledge International Blog, October 30, 2004.

Reflection: James Love. “Prizes rather than Prices.” Le Monde Diplomatique, 2006.

General information:

Hollis, Adrian, and Thomas Pogge. The Health Impact Fund: Making New Medicines Accessible for All. Incentives for Global Health, 2008.

Rufus Pollock, Open this Book.

  1. “Medical Research and Development Treaty: Discussion Draft 4”, p. 7. [return]
  2. “The Medical Innovation Convention.” [return]
  3. “Medical Research and Development Treaty: Discussion Draft 4.” [return]
  4. “Medical Research and Development Treaty: Discussion Draft 4”, p. 9. [return]
  5. “Medical Research and Development Treaty: Discussion Draft 4”, p. 12. [return]
  6. “Medical Research and Development Treaty: Discussion Draft 4”, pp. 3-5. [return]
  7. Love and Hubbard, “The Big Idea”, p. 1531. [return]
  8. “WHO | Meeting the Need for Treatment.” [return]