The African Union (AU) recently published a COVID-19 vaccine strategy. The strategy was announced in a communique issued by the AU ministers of health and heads of delegation following a virtual conference on 24 and 25 June 2020. Access to medicine in Africa is a recurring concern and it may be an opportune moment to use the response to the COVID-19 pandemic as a blueprint to secure future access to pharmaceuticals – including vaccines – for Africans.
There has been much debate in recent years as to the effectiveness of access and benefit sharing provisions relating to indigenous biological and genetic resources (IBGRs) and traditional knowledge or indigenous knowledge (IK) as set out in the Convention on Biological Diversity and adapted into local legislation of member countries. This article explores the situation in South Africa, one of the most megadiverse countries in the world with a wealth of IK relating to IBGRs.
To establish a portfolio of investments, BioVentures, South Africa's first niche biotechnology and life sciences venture capital fund, looked for South African start-ups with proprietary technology that gives them a competitive advantage; a large, growing and preferably international market; multiple products and markets rather than a single product and market; and a quality and balanced management team. This article considers these points in more detail to create a checklist for divestiture preparation or asset hunting.
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi recently implemented various changes to Schedules 4, 6 and 7 of the Medicines Act in relation to cannabis and its related components. Although amendments to the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act remain to be seen, the recent changes to the Medicines Act are a step in the right direction and a significant contribution to the rights of adults to cultivate, possess and use cannabis in private.
On the recommendation of the South African Health Products Authority, the minister of health recently issued Government Gazette 43346, which essentially exempts, under Section 36(1) of the Medicines and Related Substances Act, the free supply of medicines, medical devices and in vitro diagnostics to the state for three years. This exemption also extends to the supply of samples to the state as part of a tender published by the state.
The European Patent Office Enlarged Board of Appeal may have ended the debate on the patentability of plants and animals which are exclusively obtained by essentially biological processes by ruling that these are not patentable. If South Africa follows the board's interpretation, where essentially biological processes such as natural breeding techniques have been used to produce a plant or animal product, such a plant or animal product (and the process for producing the plant or animal) will not be patentable.