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Jaharis Faculty Fellow focuses research on biopharma IP negotiations in pandemic outbreaks

Ana Santos Rutschman
Ana Santos Rutschman is DePaul's 2016-2017 Jaharis Faculty Fellow.
DePaul University College of Law has named Ana Santos Rutschman the Jaharis Faculty Fellow for academic year 2016-2017. Rutschman will be conducting cutting-edge research at the intersection of health law and intellectual property, specifically related to the negotiation of intellectual property ​licensing in the biopharmaceutical industry during pandemic disease outbreaks.

Rutschman, an SJD candidate at Duke University School of Law, is currently finishing a project with the World Health Organization (WHO) that charts the licensing of intellectual property and its effect on the response to the outbreaks of the Ebola and Zika viruses in 2014 and 2015. Her research evaluates the global response, but in particular maps the European and American reaction times and systems. She explains that organizations, like the WHO, are beginning to look at how intellectual property negotiations can be streamlined to allow for faster development and deployment of medical treatments during such outbreaks.

“The area of IP negotiations is still underexplored, especially in terms of what are best practices in emergency responses,” said Rutschman. “Much could be avoided if we had better blueprints for negotiations in pandemic outbreaks like [Ebola]. The biopharmaceutical industry traditionally acts very slowly; it generally takes at least 10 years to develop a vaccine. ... It’s unfortunate that IP could stand in the way for vaccines already in the pipeline when an emergency happens, like the Zika and Ebola outbreaks.”

Rutschman discovered that, with Ebola, vaccines were eventually passed through the system before licensing was completely finalized. “If we can agree in advance on a set of provisions related to IP, then we can move ahead with those contracts or agreements after the vaccines have been pushed through the pipeline to help address emergency situations.”

During the course of her research on the response to the Ebola outbreak, Rutschman talked to many different organizations, some of which were not yet looking at Ebola as a case study on the interplay between intellectual property and global responses to pandemic outbreaks. Then, the Zika outbreak began. She explained that some of the same organizations “rushed to map out previous alliances based on the Ebola responses. ... Behaviors changed a lot. That was certainly some of the most fascinating part of my work.”

In addition to her research, Rutschman will teach a seminar on health innovation and intellectual property and a course on food and drug law at DePaul. She also will work closely with the Jaharis Health Law Institute and the Center for Intellectual Property Law & Information Technology. She begins the one-year fellowship on July 1.