Recognizing Women’s Medical Innovations on World IP Day | Citizens Against Government Waste

Recognizing Women’s Medical Innovations on World IP Day

The WasteWatcher

World Intellectual Property Rights Day is an excellent time to celebrate human achievement and the significance of intellectual property (IP) rights. The theme for the 2023 celebration, held annually on April 26, is “Women and IP: Accelerating innovation and creativity.”

Since the late 1800s, American women have been essential to the development of life-saving innovations.  These pioneering women paved the way for today’s groundbreaking discoveries through their research and development of best practices, new medical technologies, and medicines that have improved and saved lives.

The National Women’s Hall of Fame list of women who provided today’s innovators with the groundwork for future research and development of lifesaving cures and medical techniques include: : 

  • Gerty Theresa Cori, PhD (1896-1957), the first U.S. woman to win a Nobel Prize in science.  Dr. Cori, along with her husband Carl Cori, detailed the process of how the body utilizes energy, and published many papers that led to the discovery of the treatment of diabetes and other diseases.
  • Microbiologist and physician Gladys Dick (1881-1963) co-discovered the microbe that causes scarlet fever and co-patented the Dick test to determine an individual’s susceptibility to the disease.
  • Elizabeth Lee Hazen (1885-1975) and Rachel Fuller Brown (1898-1980) developed the first antifungal antibiotic which they named nystatin.  All proceeds were invested in the Research Corporation to fund medical research.
  • Biochemist Gertrude Elion (1918-1999) received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for her pioneering processes of drug development.  Her immuno-suppressant drug enables organ transplants.
  • Judith Graham Pool (1919-1975) identified Factor VIII, the clotting factor in human blood plasma and developed a way to manufacture it, allowing hemophiliacs to live life more fully.
  • Chemist Helen Murray Free (1923-2021) developed several self-testing systems for diabetes including Clinistix, the dip and read test.
  • Pioneering ophthalmologist Patricia Bath (1942-2019) invented the Laserphaco Probe, a device that improves on lasers to remove cataracts and cataract lenses.
  • Molecular biologist Flossie Wong-Staal (1947-2020) was the first person to clone the HIV virus, a major research advancement in the treatment of AIDS.

More recently, IP rights were essential to the development of safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines in record-breaking time, which saved millions of countless lives.  Future cures for not only the next pandemic, but also every type of disease, rely on the protection of IP.  Without those rights, researchers and scientists like Drew Weissman and Katalin Karikó would not have had the ability in the mid-1980s to build on discoveries from the 1960s to develop the mRNA technology that was used to rapidly produce safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines. 

IP rights must continue to be protected for future cures and developments and protection of these rights across the board is an equalizer for women in the workforce.  Unfortunately, infringement of IP rights is ongoing and constant especially by those who willingly ignore the benefits of IP laws. 

One of the largest threats to everyone associated with IP-related inventions and discoveries is The World Trade Organization’s (WTO) expansion of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) waivers regarding COVID-19 vaccines.  The deadline to submit written comments regarding the TRIPS waiver proposed expansion of IP rights for COVID-19 vaccines to include diagnostics and other therapeutics is May 5, 2023. 

This effort to violate IP rights is unnecessary and will hinder future research and development, including for women who are striving to create new cures and life-saving techniques.  On National IP Day, the benefits IP rights have had and will continue to have for all people should be recognized and applauded.