Top Stories

April 01, 2016


GlaxoSmithKline to ‘drop patents in poor countries for better drug access’

Pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has announced it will make it easier for manufacturers in the world’s poorest countries to copy its medicines. Chief executive Sir Andrew Witty said he wanted to take a “graduated” approach to the company’s intellectual property, based on the wealth of nations around the globe. The company has drawn up a list of 50 countries with a combined population of about 1 billion people where it will not file for patents, in accordance with international guidelines set up by the UN and the World Bank. The company also said it wants to put all its future cancer drugs into a Medicines Patent Pool, in an effort to address what it described as “the increasing burden of cancer in developing countries”. The patents pool was established in 2010 and has proved successful in accelerating access to treatments such as HIV, tuberculosis and hepatitis C through voluntary licensing arrangements in developing countries. (BBC)

Supply Chain

Unilever ditches major palm oil trader after RSPO certification is revoked

Unilever has cancelled its contracts with the IOI Group, after the major Malaysian palm oil trader was yesterday suspended by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) for destroying forests and peatlands in Indonesia. The company, which was a founding member of the RSPO in 2004, and whose customers also include Kellogg’s, Mars and Mondelez, is one of the largest ever to lose RSPO certification. The complaint was raised in March 2015 by consultants AidEnvironment, who described a series of violations such as breaches of Indonesian law and the company’s own policies on responsible palm oil production. “This suspension puts IOI in breach of our policy,” Unilever said in a statement. “We are now in the process of disengaging with the supplier and have set a time bound plan to do this over the next three months.” (Energy Desk; Eco-Business)

Technology & Innovation

Tesla targets mass market with new Model 3

US-based Tesla Motors has received more than 115,000 pre-orders for its next electric vehicle, the day before it even unveiled a prototype of the car. Although deliveries of the ‘Model 3’ are not due to start until late next year, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has targeted sales of 500,000 by 2020, a figure that would fulfil his ambition of creating the world’s first mass-market electric vehicle. The pre-order number is more than double Tesla’s total annual sales last year and much higher than most analysts had expected. The new car will have a range of at least 215 miles on a single charge, Musk said, describing that figure as a minimum that the company expected to exceed.  Unveiling the first prototypes of the car, designed as a starter luxury vehicle and priced starting at $35,000, Musk revealed that even the base model would accelerate from 0-60mph in less than six seconds, come with the sensors needed to turn it into an autonomous vehicle, and have free access to the company’s network of supercharging stations. (Financial Times*)


Wearable devices to push out the frontiers of healthcare

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have found a way of detecting potentially fatal seizures by monitoring electrical changes in the skin, opening the door to wearable devices that could reduce deaths among people with epilepsy. “Wearables are going to be much bigger than anyone imagined,” says Prof Picard, founder and director of the Affective Computing Research Group at the MIT Media Lab. As biotechnology and digital technology come together in healthcare, miniaturisation will enable the development of wearable and implantable biological devices that, equipped with sensors, can wirelessly transmit a constant stream of data about medical conditions. Analysts say this will lead to a rapid increase in the development of technically advanced wearable devices. Transparency Market Research predicts that the global wearable sensor market could expand at a compound annual growth rate of more than 45 per cent between 2014 and 2020. (Financial Times*)


Vietnam becoming wary of incentives to foreign investors

The Vietnamese Ministry of Finance recently rejected a demand from Samsung Electronics for a 50 percent tax reduction for three more years for its two plants in Vietnam, arguing that the demand is not in line with the country’s laws. Vietnam seems to be more wary about offering incentives to foreign investors, after criticism that incentives offered to potential investors are too generous and foreign companies are treated better than domestic ones. Economist Bui Kien Thanh said: “No country offers incentives to foreign investors like Vietnam. We should cut overly-generous incentives.” Investor interest in Vietnam is growing, thanks to the recent free trade agreement between 12 Pacific Rim countries.  Tech behemoths like Microsoft and Intel have already made the move to Vietnam from China, where labour costs have shot up. Around 57 percent of US companies operating in Southeast Asia consider Vietnam the most attractive investment destination, according to Vietnam’s Foreign Investment Agency. (Thanhniem news)


Image source: Tesla Motors Store by Raysonho / Public Domain