Who Owns Human Genes?

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geneLawrence O. Gostin, Faculty Director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University recently published an article in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

An extract of the piece is below as is a link to the complete article. Any questions or comments can be directed to gostin@law.georgetown.edu.


Angelina Jolie’s recent disclosure that she had undergone a prophylactic double mastectomy following a positive test for a BRCA1 mutation (which increases lifetime breast cancer risk by 60%-87%) prompted a national conversation about genetic testing and preventive surgery.1 Tests for BRCA1 and BRCA2 cost more than $3000, placing them beyond the reach of many women. The high cost is partly a consequence of intellectual property protection afforded to Myriad Genetics Inc, which sequenced the genes and developed the testing capability. 

The complete article can be found here.

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My Summer with the O’Neill Institute

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washington-dc-city-guide-ga-3This post was written by Marguerite de Causans (Paris Bar School), summer research assistant at the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law. Any comments or questions about this post can be directed to mdecausans@gmail.com.

To sum-up my summer internship experience at the O’Neill Institute in just a few paragraphs is anything but an easy task. In the course of the past twelve weeks, I got the opportunity to work on a variety of fascinating projects and also met plenty of amazing people!

Interning at the O’Neill Institute is the best way to tackle both global health law and human rights. I worked with Ana Ayala, an Institute Associate, whose passion for health-related issues quickly inspired my own.

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Recent Posts from the O’Neill Institute Trade, Investment, and Health Blog

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TIHCheck out two recent posts from the O’Neill Institute’s blog on Trade, Investment, and Health, featured below.

About: The O’Neill Institute Initiative on Trade, Investment and Health aims to bridge the gap between public health and international trade and investment law. The initiative is focused on the effects of trade and investment agreements on domestic regulatory autonomy.

The initiative fosters legal and multi-disciplinary scholarship on the intersection of trade, investment and health. The initiative also disseminates knowledge about international trade and investment law into the broader public health community, to enhance the ability of health lawyers and policy-makers to engage with international trade and investment agreements.

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O’Neill Institute Summer Conversation Series

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Paul_Gauguin_the conversation

The Conversation – Paul Gauguin

Thursday, August 15 – 12:30-1:30

Speaker: Peter Sawyer, Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

Location: EBW358

Topic: Health Investigative Reporting

Peter Sawyer is health projects director at the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. He works to improve and extend the impact of the Center’s reporting on health by developing partnerships with media outlets and universities, forming relationships with leading experts and advocacy organizations, and giving presentations of the Center’s work to students and the public. He has reported for PBS NewsHour from Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Liberia on government accountability for clean water access, and has spoken at dozens of schools and universities in the US and UK. He is a member of the Rotary Club of Washington, DC.

Peter graduated from Davidson College, majoring in economics. He previously worked as first mate on a schooner in the Outer Banks of North Carolina and as a volunteer firefighter. Peter’s ambition is to live a life he’d like to tell stories about.

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A New Frontier: The Access to Medicines Movement and NCDs

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Ensuring access to medicines requires a two-pronged approach.  First, medicines must be invented and developed.  For conditions that widely affect both the rich and poor, this presents little problem.  Because those in the developed world can afford to pay large sums for these medicines, pharmaceutical companies have a strong financial incentive to develop treatments.  However, where diseases affect primarily those living in poverty (e.g., schistosomiasis), or where these populations need different formulations from those used in developed countries (e.g., heat-stable versions of pediatric drugs), companies have little incentive to develop medicines—it makes little economic sense to create a product for a population that has no money to pay for it.  Second, those drugs that are developed must be available at an affordable cost, with sufficient safeguards for quality, and against the backdrop of adequate distribution networks.

The campaign for access to medicines grew up alongside HIV/AIDS.  When the first antiretroviral treatment, AZT, came to market in 1989, it cost a staggering $8,000 per year, putting the patented drug out of reach for many Americans and Europeans, along with virtually all of the rest of the world.  The World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), which required all member countries to guarantee patent protection for medicines, further galvanized activists.  The movement has been largely successful in reducing the cost of HIV/AIDS medicines, largely by promoting generic competition.  AZT’s price, for instance, has plummeted to just $70 per year. Read More

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The views reflected in this blog are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent those of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law or Georgetown University. This blog is solely informational in nature, and not intended as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed and retained attorney in your state or country.

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