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Scientific progress and advances in health technologies, including medicines, vaccines, medical devices, diagnostics, assistive products, cell- and gene-based therapies, and other health technologies, have contributed to unprecedented improvements in health outcomes.

Biotechnology has created new diagnostic tools and treatment methods as well as innovative biotherapeutic pharmaceutical products. Information technology (IT) has entered all relevant health fields and is used by health administration professionals to facilitate healthcare data management. Medical and assistive devices can produce a wealth of data as they fulfil their therapeutic functions. Such data can be used as an empirical basis for system-wide improvements. IT also plays an increasing role in diagnosis, research and development (R&D), and treatment, including efforts to provide more personalized treatment to patients.

However, significant challenges remain. Gains in life expectancy and quality of life are unequally distributed among low-, middle- and high-income countries, and inequities also persist within countries. To bridge these gaps and to tackle the evolving global disease burden requires needs-driven research, technological advances that address specific diseases as well as access to, and affordability of, new treatments. 

Agenda and key issues

The Directors-General of the three organizations will open the Symposium. The first panel will then review the landscape of cutting-edge technologies. Panellists will discuss perspectives on future health outcomes through biotechnology, information technology and big data as applied in the medical and medical devices sectors.

The second panel will discuss the opportunities and challenges of optimising the benefits of these new technologies from a health, intellectual property (IP) and trade perspective, considering how these policy mechanisms can function together in the most effective way. Panellists will also address increasing costs for healthcare systems, access and affordability challenges, and possible country options to facilitate wider use of these technologies as well as the use of confidential patient information data and resulting ethical considerations.

To mark ten years of more closely coordinated trilateral cooperation between the WHO, WIPO and the WTO, each organization will give an update of recent work with a bearing on the themes of the Symposium. The draft programme is available here.

Participation is open to all interested individuals and organizations. Online registration is available here. The deadline for registration is 24 October 2019.

Background

This year marks the ten-year anniversary of more focused cooperation between the secretariats of WHO, WIPO and the WTO regarding matters at the crossroads of health, trade and IP. This trilateral cooperation canvasses a broad range of matters falling under the responsibilities of the three organizations, including patterns of innovation and access, factors affecting the production and dissemination of medical technologies, and the interplay between public health, international trade rules and the intellectual property system. The cooperation stems from the understanding that the organizations can more effectively deliver on the mandates assigned to them through a process of coordination and collaboration, with due respect for each other's technical expertise.

As part of their efforts to provide technical support and to build a platform of factual evidence for decision-makers, the organizations have held seven joint technical symposia since 2010. These have reviewed a range of topical issues at the intersection of health, trade and IP, with a concentration on the evolving needs for public health.

The Trilateral Study on ‘Promoting Access to Medical Technologies and Innovation’ has informed policy makers and the public in an accessible, systematic format about the wide range of factors that affect innovation and access in the health sector as well as the policy options that are available to them.

The cooperation of the three organizations is characterized by active, fact-based dialogue, coordination and partnership, leading to more effective and tailored capacity-building activities.

Webcasting

There will be live webcasting of the symposium.

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