Laura Foster presents talk on patent law and Hoodia in Southern Africa

photo foster
Co-sponsored by the Medical Humanities & Health Studies Program and the Hall Center for Law & Health
Friday December 6, 2013
12:00 – 1:00 p.m.
Cavanaugh Hall 003

Laura Foster, J.D., Ph.D. is Assistant Professor Gender Studies, Affiliate Faculty, Maurer School of Law, Indiana University.

In 1998 researchers with the South African Center for Scientific and Industrial Research (“CSIR”) isolated and patented certain chemical compositions within the Hoodia gordonii plant responsible for suppressing appetite. Hoodia gordonii suddenly emerged as a patented invention poised to be a blockbuster anti-obesity drug. At the same time, the plant became a symbol of South Africa as nation of innovation, and Indigenous San peoples publicly accused scientists of stealing their knowledge of the plant. Advancing a powerful global campaign, San peoples negotiated a benefit sharing agreement with CSIR giving them 6% of the potential revenue from future Hoodia sales. Hopes for Hoodia , however, ended in 2009 when Unilever terminated the project.

Drawing upon and contributing to feminist post-colonial science studies, this talk considers Hoodia gordonii as a boundary object that brings the divergent interests and stakes of various social actors together. Furthermore, it unpacks the black box of patent law to ask how both science and law work together to determine who is (or is not) considered an inventor and producer of science.

Free and open to the campus and public, but space is limited. Please RSVP to: medhum@iupui.edu.

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