India beats back bio-piracy bid

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India beats back bio-piracy bid

Kounteya Sinha | TNN

New Delhi: India has foiled a major bio-piracy bid on the use of ashwagandha (Withania_somnifera), a wonder plant used in the treatment of a range of illnesses including depression, diabetes, insomnia, convulsions and gastritis.

On March 25, the European Patent Office (EPO) decided to withdraw American multinational company Natreon Inc's patent applications on the plants medicinal properties after India submitted documented proof confirming how medicinal formulations using ashwagandha were being used in the country as far back as in the 12th century.

Called Indian ginseng, ashwagandha is used extensively in ayurveda, siddha and unani, India's traditional systems of medicine. But on July 27, 2006, Natreon filed patent applications in the EPO on ashwagandha's (Withania somnifera) ability to treat or manage anxiety-induced stress, depression, insomnia, gastric ulcers and convulsions.

The head of the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL), Dr VK Gupta, shot off a letter to the EPO on July 6, 2009, submitting evidence to confirm that ashwagandha's medicinal properties against the mentioned conditions were long known. Interestingly, the letter also contained 15 pieces of evidence and documents dating back to the 12th century. Excerpts from age-old texts of ayurveda, unani and siddha, where such formulations were mentioned, were also attached.

The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research's letter to EPO in 2009 said, Patent application EP 1906980 titled Method of treatment or management of stress may kindly be referred to wherein treatment of anxiety-induced stress,depression-induced stress, sleep deprivation-induced stress, thermic change-induced stress and gastric ulcer-induced stress with Withania somnifera has been claimed to be as novel.

The letter added, But in TKDL, several references are there,wherein Withania somnifera is used for the treatment of depression, insomnia, gastritis, gastric ulcer and convulsions since long. Hence, there does not seem to be any novelty or inventive step involved in the claims made in the above patent application.

News Courtesy: Times of India 27.03.2010

Image courtesy: Wikimedia commons

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