President of the Network of the Indigenous Peoples-Solomons (NIPS) Mr Donald Marahare has urged the Solomon Islands Government to demand the withdrawal of a patent application in the US involving genetic samples collected from indigenous Solomon Islanders.
The genetic samples were collected by a Taiwanese researcher, Dr. Ying-chin Ko of Kaohsiung Medical University in September 2006. Dr. Ko and three colleagues filed the patent application in the US on June 10 2010.
Mr. Marahare says he believes the individuals who supplied the samples are not aware of the patent application and would have not consented to taking part had they known the research would be used in this way.
The samples from 192 Solomon Islanders used in Dr. Ko’s US patent application 20100248253 entitled "Method and Kit for Assessing Risk of Gout and Hyperuricemia," were collected at the National Referral Hospital in Honiara and two clinics in rural Guadalcanal province.
Mr Marahare adds that his organization strongly condemns such a deceitful act by Dr. Ko who has utilized the Taiwan-Solomon Islands diplomatic relationship for his personal gain and strongly recommends the Solomon Islands Government commence formalities to demand the immediate return of the samples.
The President of NIPS acknowledges his organization’s link with Mark Munsterhjelm of the University of Windsor in Canada, Neth Dano of the ETC Group in Philipines and Fiu Elisara of Samoa who alerted the NIPS about Dr. Ko’s application.
“Had we not been informed by Mr Munsterhjelm, Solomon Islands would not have the slightest idea of this application” said Mr. Marahare, who also demanded that, “such practice where Indigenous Solomon Islanders are used for commercial interests without obtaining their free, prior and full informed consent must be stopped.”
The Solomon Islands Research and Ethical Committee of the Ministry of Health and Medical Services earlier this week, has also strongly demanded Dr. Ko’s application be refused or quashed.
Meanwhile, a prominent Honiara lawyer requesting anonymity has called on the Solomon Islands Government to be ready to do more than simply requesting the US Patent and Trademark Office “quash or refuse” the patent application filed by Dr. Ko.
He said, “The government must be ready to bring about legal proceedings in the US to restrain relevant authorities from granting the patent. They have to back up requests with legal proceedings as requests is not enough.”
The Network of the Indigenous Peoples-Solomons (NIPS) is currently working to raise awareness and is demanding the immediate return of the samples taken by Dr. Ko back to Solomon Islands and to have the US Patent and Trademark Office disqualify this patent application.