Letter from Jo Marie Griesgraber, Policy Director for Oxfam America, to Mark G. Yudof, President of the University of Minnesota, regarding IP rights to Ziagen

March 28, 2001

Mark G. Yudof
University of Minnesota
202 MorH
Minneapolis, MN 55455
Fax 612/625-3875

Dear President Yudof,

I am writing in support of the fine work done by students at the University of Minnesota on responsible use of the University's research on medicines for life-threatening illnesses.

The University developed Abacavir, an AIDS medication marketed by GlaxoSmithKline as Ziagen. Oxfam America asks you to show leadership by exerting your strongest effort to ensure Abacavir reaches those who need it most. Developing Abacavir was a fine example of the University of Minnesota doing innovative research to benefit humanity and quite literally save lives. But Abacavir is not now available on an affordable basis to countries in sub-Saharan Africa. We trust you will agree the University's job is only half done if people in poor countries are unable to use this very useful medication due to its high cost.

At Oxfam, we strongly believe private firms like Glaxo have a moral responsibility to show such leadership. You doubtless recognize that is doubly true for a publicly funded educational institution. We ask that you do everything in your power to ensure the university's intellectual property rights will not pose a barrier to provision of Ziagen in Africa at an affordable price, and that you use the University's patent rights and moral standing to encourage GlaxoSmithKline to do so.

Specifically, we ask you to forego any licensing fees owed to the University and speak out publicly to encourage GlaxoSmithKline to provide Ziagen at a deeply discounted price in the poorest countries; or alternatively assign the University's intellectual property rights to a public entity such as the World Health Organization; and contribute a portion of past royalties to the World Health Organization to be used for HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment in Africa.

We hope you will agree that there would be no better way for the University to celebrate its sesquicentennial than to help the poorest region on earth survive a fatal epidemic. Please do not hesitate to contact me through our senior trade advocate, Severina Rivera, at (202) 496-1307. Please copy your Ms. Amanda Swarr at (612) 827-8935 on any correspondence.


Jo Marie Griesgraber, Ph.D.
Policy Director
Oxfam America

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