Initial reports were that Indonesia planned withhold samples of
the H5N1 bird flu it had isolated in order to 'keep control of
intellectual property rights' in an exclusive deal with Baxter. It
then transpires that the govt had concluded that the normal approach
to 'sharing' sample with the WHO led to the WHO 'sharing' samples
with pharmacorps, which would then screw high prices for derivative
vaccines out of the country that 'shared' originary samples. Once
that came out, the govt agreed -- after a notably short five-hour
negotiation -- to 'share' them, 'but only after steps were taken
to ensure developing countries get fair and equitable access to
vaccines.' Which makes it sound, in a classic mode of journalistic
~misrepresentation, as though the WHO caved in very quickly when
its role in facilitating expropriation of knowledge that is at once
indigenous *and* 'high-tech' was exposed.

This might be a very interesting precursor of a trend in which LDCs
with access to critical ~primary sources play an extreme-sounding IPR
card, not so much to profit from it but, rather, to demolish normal
cycles of loss after loss. It's hard to tell from the thin coverage;
but it's interesting to specualte about other applications of this
approach to disassembling rentier networks.


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February 6 2007 02:00

Indonesia withholds genetic samples of bird flu virus

By John Aglionby in Jakarta and Andrew Jack in London

Indonesia, the country worst hit by the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus,
has stopped sharing human genetic samples of the highly pathogenic
illness with foreign laboratories, raising fears it could slow
international efforts to prepare for a pandemic.

Officials say Indonesia stopped providing samples internationally last
month, hindering efforts to confirm whether the virus killing its
citizens is H5N1 and limiting production of vaccines to help prevent
its spread.

Dr Triono Soendoro, director-general of Indonesia's National Institute
of Health Research and Development, said the step to withhold samples
was taken because the government wanted to keep control of the
intellectual property rights of the deadly strain of the virus.

He declined to give further details but said "all will be revealed"
on Wednesday, when Indonesian officials are due to announce they are
collaborating with Baxter International, the world's biggest maker of
blood-disease products, on a vaccine.

The move comes as Britain battles its worst outbreak of H5N1 bird flu,
which yesterday led to several countries banning UK poultry imports,
including Japan and South Korea. Defra, the UK's food, agriculture
and rural affairs ministry, said it expected the restrictions to last
until the UK had achieved "disease-free status".

The UK exports 270,000 tonnes of poultry meat annually, worth about
£300m, according to the British Poultry Council.

Analysts say Indonesia hopes to offer exclusive rights to the strain
to one company and cut a deal on cheaper products once they are

One official warned that withholding samples could be
counterproductive, since there was no guarantee the final human
pandemic strain would derive from the current virus killing people
in Indonesia. One bird flu expert in Jakarta said the move would not
matter if Indonesia was able to do a full sequencing of its strain
to detect mutations. "But given the country doesn't yet have the
capability, this is now a very internationally worrying decision,"
the expert said. "If you reduce your chances of detecting whether a
pandemic is about to occur, then a pandemic becomes more likely."

Bird flu has killed 63 out of the 81 people infected in Indonesia
since testing started in 2005, according to the World Health

Baxter confirmed last night that it expected to conclude a "framework
for future collaboration" with Indonesia this week, which could
involve intellectual property issues, but stressed that it would
continue to comply with World Health Organisation rules on the sharing
of virus samples.

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February 7 2007 18:42

Indonesia blames WHO for bird flu deal

By John Aglionby in Jakarta and Andrew Jack in London

Indonesia on Wednesday blamed the World Health Organisation for its
decision to stop sharing samples of the H5N1 bird flu virus, claiming
the UN agency passed them to pharmaceutical companies to make vaccines
that Jakarta had to buy at high prices.

Siti Fadillah Supari, the health minister, made the claim as she
signed an agreement with Baxter International that effectively
gave the US healthcare company commercial rights to samples of the
country's human strain of bird flu virus.

The move highlights fears among developing countries affected by avian
flu that, while they may co-operate with international researchers
into the disease, they may nevertheless be unable to benefit from new
vaccines and drugs that result.

But it also comes just as WHO officials are attempting to extend
international sharing arrangements that exist for seasonal flu strains
to potential pandemic viruses.

Indonesia last month started withholding samples of the H5N1 virus
that has killed at least five people in the country this year.

Ms Siti Fadillah justified the move, saying that specimens sent to the
WHO "have been forwarded to their collaborating centre. There they
have been used for various reasons such as vaccine development or

"Later they sold the discovery to us," she added. "This is not fair.
We are the ones who got sick, they took the sample through WHO and
with WHO consent and they tried to produce it for their own use."

She cited CSL, the Australian pharmaceutical group that has produced
an experimental vaccine based on an Indonesian strain. "When I heard
that Australia is developing a vaccine, I was very surprised because I
have never given them permission."

But David Heymann, acting head of communicable disease at the WHO,
stressed that while there was a patent on the "reverse genetics"
required to make seasonal flu strains safe for circulation, all
vaccine manufacturers had free access to the strain.

He warned that patent protection on human strains of the disease would
threaten the current system of international collaboration and could
prove counterproductive, since there was no guarantee Indonesia's
strain would be the mutation that sparked a pandemic.

Dick Thompson, a WHO spokesman in Geneva, said the agency wanted
to discuss with Jakarta "how they think the laboratory network
and databank have been misused". He added: "We're committed to
investigating abuses if they exist and making sure they don't happen
in the future."

Under Wednesday's deal, a Swiss-based unit of Baxter International
will develop a bird flu vaccine. Indonesia will own the vaccine
and the rights to make and market it. Baxter will have access to
Indonesian samples and will aid Indonesia's capacity to make vaccines.

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February 17 2007 02:00

Indonesia agrees to share bird flu samples

By John Aglionby in Jakarta

Indonesia agreed yesterday to resume sharing samples of the deadly
bird flu virus with the World Health Organisation, but only after
steps were taken to ensure developing countries get fair and equitable
access to vaccines.

The U-turn by the country worst affected by the H5N1 virus came after
five hours of negotiations in Jakarta with Dr David Heymann, the WHO's
chief of communicable diseases.

Once sharing resumes, researchers should be able to see if the
Indonesian strain of H5N1 has mutated into a form that makes
human-to-human transmission more likely.

Indonesia stopped sharing samples in mid-January after learning that
the Australian pharmaceutical group CSL had developed a vaccine using
the Indonesian H5N1 human strain without permission. It blamed the WHO
for providing drug companies with free access to the samples.

Siti Fadillah Supari, the health minister, said yesterday she had been
convinced of the need to ensure "global public health security" but
only in ways that were "just, fair and wise".

Last week Jakarta signed a deal with Baxter International that gave
the American company commercial rights to the Indonesian bird flu
strain in return for supplying Indonesia with cheap vaccines.

Dr Heymann said Indonesia would convene a meeting of interested
parties next month to start developing the formal mechanisms to
develop equitable vaccine access. But he said he hoped Jakarta would
start sharing the samples well before that, in "a week or two".

Dr Siti Fadillah refused to confirm that, saying only that Indonesia
would wait until the new mechanisms were in place.

The WHO assembly in May is due to debate a resolution regarding the
extent to which nations can claim intellectual property rights over
diseases that emerge within their borders. Jakarta wants IPR over its
bird flu strain.

*The H5N1 strain of bird flu has killed poultry in the Moscow region
for the first time, Russia's chief sanitary expert and head of a
consumer watchdog was quoted by RIA news agency as saying yesterday,
Reuters reports from Moscow. "The pathogenicity of this virus for
people has not been confirmed. Vets have detected it; they confirm it
is the H5N1 strain," Gennady Onishchenko said.

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Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007

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