In a rapidly evolving world, leveraging intellectual property (IP) for greater good has become a priority and its importance will continue to grow as humanity addresses pivotal global challenges including climate change, global health crises, and food security concerns.

While IP can directly or indirectly contribute to many of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), its role is perhaps most evident in relation to SDG 9, which emphasizes fostering innovation and promoting sustainable industrialization. As a catalyst for innovation, IP also contributes directly to achieving other SDGs including pharmaceuticals and medical advancement (SDG 3).

We confront monumental challenges in health, such as antimicrobial resistance, emerging infectious diseases, neglected tropical diseases, besides other threats. These necessitate the continual development of novel drugs, vaccines, and innovative strategies for delivering healthcare services and products. Although innovation holds the proven potential to address these global challenges, the investment of time and resources remains a concern. Therefore, the question is - what actions can ensure that the cycle of drug discovery and development is responsive to needs of those who require them, without undermining innovator interest?

A viable path forward could be transitioning to a system that addresses needs through public-private partnerships or international funding mechanisms, such as the India Health Fund (a collaborative initiative of Tata Trusts and the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria). Public or global entities identify pressing needs, leading to partnerships aimed at meeting these needs, maintaining a robust IP system. By enabling the sharing of knowledge, expertise, and resources through licensing agreements, joint ventures, and open innovation platforms - IP fosters collective action towards common goals.

IP plays a pivotal role in encouraging companies to integrate social and environmental considerations into their business strategies. The pharmaceutical industry is often called out over its environmental footprint, particularly in drug manufacturing processes. IP can drive innovation in green chemistry and sustainable manufacturing practices, reducing the industry’s environmental impact. For example, Sanofi’s Chemistry & Biotechnology Development Center (Ankleshwar) innovated on a process to manufacture drug Intermediates that help save portable water.

Leveraging IP presents an unprecedented opportunity to address global challenges. As we navigate these complexities, we should harness the full potential of IP to create a more inclusive, resilient, and sustainable future for all.

(The writer is a retired bureaucrat, earlier involved in revamping the IP administration in the country. Views are personal.)