12 April 2013Americas

USPTO names Patents for Humanity winners

The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has announced the winners of its Patents for Humanity competition, which recognises patent owners and licensees addressing global health and development challenges.

The competition was launched in February 2012 and awards inventors in four categories: food and nutrition, clean technology, information technology and medical technology, which is divided into two sub-categories: one for medicines and vaccines and another for diagnostics and devices.

The winners were announced at an awards ceremony on Capitol Hill on Thursday, 11 April and will be awarded “accelerated processing of select matters at the USPTO”.

Biotechnology firm Gilead topped the medicines and vaccines category for teaming up with generic drugs manufacturers in Asia and Africa to improve access to affordable HIV treatment, along with the University of California, which has developed research and licensing agreements for a low-cost, reliable method of producing anti-malarial compounds.

The winners of the diagnostics and devices subcategory were SIGN Fracture Care for distributing low-cost fracture implants to speed up healing times in developing world hospitals, and Becton Dickinson for creating a tuberculosis diagnosis machine and placing it in 300 hospitals in high burden countries.

In the food and nutrition category, DuPont Pioneer was awarded for developing an improved strain of sorghum (grass used to make grain) with more proteins and vitamins for use in sub-Saharan Africa, and Intermark Partners Strategic Management LLP was awarded for extracting edible protein and vitamins from waste rice bran in Latin America.

Manufacturing giant Procter and Gamble also received an award for distributing a chemical patent which removes impurities and drinking water, as did solar light bulb and phone charger manufacturers Nokero, for teaming up with local entrepreneurs to distribute its products in off-grid villages.

In the information category, Massachusetts based not-for-profit company Sproxil was awarded for deploying a system to identify counterfeit drugs with a cell phone in sub-Saharan Africa, while Microsoft was awarded for developing tools to allow researchers to better analyse large sets of data.

Speaking at Thursday’s ceremony, Teresa Stanek Rea, acting director of the USPTO, said: “Time and again history shows the profound impact that one good idea—patented and marketed—can have on human beings, our world, and our way of life. The Patents for Humanity program … encourages patent owners to use their technologies to benefit those who live in under-developed and under-served regions around the world.”

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