Nagoya – protecting resources with paperwork
10.07.2015 - European Biotechnology Network had the good fortune to moderate the 8th Berlin Conference on IP in Life Science, which this year had a focus on natural products. “That will be interesting,” I thought to myself, thinking about the world of complex structures and challenging development pathways.
“Interesting” soon paled into insignificance as I fell headlong into the tiger trap that is the Nagoya Protocol, coming soon folks to a country near you.
For those of you uninitiated in such matters, the Nagoya Protocol is a global programme with the extremely relevant intention to regulate access to genetic resources and ensure the sharing of benefits arising from their utilisation. Europe, as we recall, knows a thing or two about ‘accessing’ resources from countries beyond its immediate vicinity without the express written consent of their owners and Nagoya is a worthy platform to prevent sticky-fingered organisations from literally vacuuming up local resources and knowhow without a) the locals’ consent and b) full engagement financially and culturally.
A lot of paperwork
This all sounds great and, as usual, the liberation of keen regulators around the world has ensured that it is now massively complicated and is already protecting local resources by ensuring that nobody can be bothered to fill in all the forms to pick a plant or sample the water. This learned column however wants to focus on what happens when Nagoya arrives in Europe, which it will do in October, and has to be implemented.
And when I say implemented, I mean into all legal systems, and Europe has many more of those than a simple headcount of countries. Spain is my favourite example, where Nagoya will be implemented by each of the 17 autonomous communities. So, sampling natural resources in Spain (including those found in marine ecosystems) could involve discussions with ALL the regions in which your bacteria, nematode or plant can be cultivated, and that is a lot of paperwork in a wide variety of dialects.
Europe is woefully underprepared for the level of stringency required by Nagoya, most countries aren’t ready for October because they didn’t pay attention when they should have, which will result in the usual amusing quagmire that Europe is good at creating. If this sounds flippant, perhaps it is, but this column comes in the light of the fact that research into, and commercialisation of natural products has collapsed in the years that have seen increasing regulation on access, with, I recall, a reduction of the big companies active in natural products declining from 13 to 3 (don’t quote me on that exact number but it is close).
The irony is that you only have to step outside your back door to find sufficient genetic resources to last a lifetime of natural product research. You don’t have to go to anywhere exotic (and fill in lots of forms) and European implementation of Nagoya will probably ensure that we all look closer to home in the future.http://www.european-biotechnology-news.com/people/heard-in-brussels/2015/nagoya-protecting-resources-with-paperwork.html