Pharma cos. not big fans of India's traditional knowledge database

'Traditional Knowledge Digital Library' get $2 million in government funding to preserve traditional healing arts. Is it as Big Pharma charges, a "solution in search of a problem?"

India recently funded a $2 million digital database that eventually will contain more than 100,000 traditional medicinal remedies -- "the collective wisdom of the ancient healing arts known as ayurveda , unani and siddha, the latter based on the teachings of the Hindu god Shiva," reports the Washington Post.

The project was fueled by worries that theft by multinational drug companies, a practice known here as bio-piracy, and an effort to preserve and copyright India's unique cultural heritage. It is hoped that the data-collection effort will help foster a joint collaboration between western pharmaceutical companies and traditional medicine.

Mark Grayson, a spokesman for Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America, the drug-industry lobbying group, described the Indian project as "a solution in search of a problem." He said "there is no evidence of bio-piracy," noting that most modern drugs are developed from chemicals with the aid of computers, rather than from natural substances."

Fearing intellectual property lock-ups, the project definately has some detractors.

"At the same time, he said, the Indian effort could "inhibit drug development" by discouraging companies from developing new cures from plants whose medicinal uses India now claims as protected intellectual property. The drug industry is opposing India's efforts to amend World Trade Organization rules to protect such ancient remedies." 

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