Global Health Centre
29 November 2019

The Knowledge Network’s webinar series celebrates one year of disseminating policy-relevant research to a global audience

The Knowledge Network on Innovation and Access to Medicines is a project of the Global Health Centre that seeks to maximize the contributions of research and analysis to producing public health needs-driven innovation and globally-equitable access to medicines. In June 2019, the project launched the Knowledge Portal, a one-stop source providing open access information, research and analysis on policies relating to pharmaceutical innovation and access. Topics are organized under three interrelated themes: Pricing, Intellectual Property and Innovation. The resources available at the Knowledge Portal aim to make existing knowledge more available and accessible to communities of policy & practice and include: research syntheses on a range of topics, data sources, webinars and a list of research gaps.

The webinar series just completed 1 year, a timely moment to look back. The webinars are presented by leading medicines policy researchers and stakeholders and aim to make recent, policy-relevant research more readily accessible to a global public audience. They serve as a platform for facilitating two way flows of knowledge among and between the research, policy and practice communities across the world as they share their expertise and practical insights from the field on some of these hotly debated topics in global public health today.

Each webinar lasts for an hour with an initial presentation by the main guest speaker followed by a question and answer session among the participants, including at times invited discussants with a high-degree of knowledge on the topic. All webinars are recorded and publicly available online to allow access for a broader audience. Guest speakers are selected to present and discuss recent research and analysis conducted not only in academic institutions, but also in governmental and multilateral organizations, as well as civil society organizations, keeping in mind gender and geographical representation.

At the end of each webinar session, we conduct a short survey to get feedback on how to improve the webinars and generally feedback has been very positive with most participants saying that the webinars met their expectations and were a great avenue for discovering new research and gaining new knowledge.

I attend all Knowledge Network webinars, where I can, because the curation of speakers/topics is very good. It absolutely met my expectations.
I am very much interested in the topic of drug pricing. It was very interesting and educational. Thank you for organizing it.
Map showing countries of participants

The topics of the webinar series also centre around the ‘Pricing’, ‘Intellectual Property’ and ‘Innovation’ themes and they serve as an enriching resource for researchers with an interest in those topics and for policy makers and civil society advocates who are actively driving policy discourses and engagements to translate evidence-based research into actionable policies. This is evident in the span of its reach in the last 1 year since the inaugural webinar was held with nearly 1900 registrations (1200 uniques) and 900 live participants (550 uniques) joining from over 62 countries from the global north and south, and more than 850 visualisations of webinar recordings. Below we present a brief description of all webinars held thus far. We welcome suggestions of topics and guest speakers for the webinar series, either through the dedicated contribution box available at the webinars page in the Knowledge Portal or via email

Public funding of biomedical R&D

Speakers: Slavek Roller and Nadya Wells

November 2019

Slavek Roller presented his recently published paper investigating the role of pension and state funds in financing biomedical R&D in the complex financial architecture of modern drug development. He discovered that public investment funds in the European Union, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland and the UK hold significant shares in pharmaceutical companies. He also described how the source of investment does or does not influence decision making regarding pricing and R&D priorities and implications for current debates on access to medicines and innovation. Nadya Wells, who has extensive experience working with financial institutions, provided further insights on the role of pension fund investors in the public health space.

China’s changing role in the global pharmaceutical system

Speakers: Peter Yu and Yuanquiong Hu

October 2019

Peter Yu presented his recent paper examining China’s increased investment in biomedical R&D and its implications for the global pharmaceutical landscape. He discussed the latest proposed changes to the Chinese patent law and regulation on test data protection (data exclusivity) for pharmaceutical products. Dr. Hu provided commentary on the paper, echoing some of the national and global ramifications of China’s changing intellectual property policy  landscape addressed by Prof. Yu. She pointed out that China may eventually backtrack on its plan to extend the data exclusivity time frame for innovative therapeutic biologics beyond 6 years because of the ongoing US - China trade wars and growing consensus on the need for less stringent IP regulations to improve access to affordable medicines.

Is data exclusivity justified?

Speakers: Reed Beall, Mayra Vasquez , Miguel Cortes

September 2019

Three leading experts discussed their research studies exploring the grounds for different data exclusivity periods and their impact on innovation and access to medicines. Reed Beall shared research findings from a study that reviewed the pre-development period for all new drugs approved in the US for the past decade, concluding there is no evidence that developing biologic drugs takes more time compared to small molecule drugs. Mayra Vasquez and Miguel Cortes presented a study examining the impacts of data exclusivity (DE) ten years after its introduction in Colombia. They found that DE led to $412 million in additional medicines expenditure, but did not lead to faster entry of novel products in Colombia, although the costs of DE have been justified on this basis.

Global access to affordable insulin: understanding the barriers

Speakers: Marg Ewen and Molly Lepeska

June 2019

Marg Ewen and Molly Lepeska discussed the findings of a multi-year study on the factors limiting access to insulin treatment, including issues related to global market structure, intellectual property, trade, prices, taxes and tariffs. They also offered recommendations to increase affordability and accessibility of this essential medicine around the world.

Public funding of drug development: contributions of the US NIH

Speaker: Ekaterina Cleary

April 2019

The contributions of public funding to pharmaceutical R&D is underappreciated compared to the widely recognised financial investments made by the private sector. Ekaterina Cleary  discussed her team’s findings from a bibliometric research study that showed that US National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding significantly contributed to basic and applied research associated with all 210 new molecular entities (NMEs) approved by the US FDA from 2010 - 2016.

R&D costs of cancer medicines

Speaker: Kiu Tay-Teo

March 2019

Kiu Tay-Teo presented his team’s article comparing sales income with the estimated R&D costs of cancer medicines approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) between 1987 and 2017, concluding that the observed returns for originator companies are far in excess of possible R&D costs. They also argued that lowering cancer drug prices and facilitating greater competition is essential for improving patient access, the financial sustainability of health systems and future innovation.

Regulation to accelerate access to biosimilars

Speaker: Carolina Gomez

February 2019

Carolina Gomez discussed the main technical barriers associated with the international regulation of biologics and biosimilar drugs. She then presented Colombia’s 2014 regulatory reform intended to improve the evaluation of biologics with an emphasis on the process to authorize competing products i.e. biosimilars or biogenerics and the fast-track approach adopted.

Using competition law to address high medicines prices

Speaker: Frederick Abbott

January 2019

The pros and cons of using competition law to address the problem of high prices of medicines is widely debated in research and practice today. Prof. Frederick Abbott, a leading expert in competition law presented the main arguments for using competition law to tackle high medicines prices and technical aspects of how to determine when prices are excessive (e.g. considering cost of production, cost of development, degrees of risk).

Addressing high drug prices

Speaker: Sabine Vogler

December 2018

Compared to many other countries, European Union (EU) countries have had extensive experience developing and implementing policies on pricing, procurement and reimbursement of medicines, including generic drugs and biosimilars. Sabine Vogler analysed and described the policies most commonly used by EU countries, explained their strengths and limitations and offered proposals on how to improve them.

New technologies for Neglected Diseases

Speaker: Gavin Yamey

November 2018

Gavin Yamey presented his team’s research findings projecting which products would and would not emerge from the current R&D pipeline of health technologies for 35 neglected diseases of poverty, and estimated total costs, using the Portfolio to Impact (P2I) modeling tool.

A New World Patent Order

Speaker: Achal Prabhala

October 2018

Achal Prabhala shared his team’s research on biomedical patents granted and rejected in India, which uncovered strengths and weaknesses in how the Indian patent law has been implemented. He also shared policy implications for other emerging economies like Brazil and South Africa.