A global strategy to boost the development of medicines to combat diseases that largely affect developing countries and poor people has moved a step nearer with a meeting in Geneva convened by the World Health Organisation.

The Inter-Governmental Working Group on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property was set up earlier this year to address concerns that current R&D efforts are weighted more towards solving the health problems of the prosperous West rather than those, often more life-threatening, diseases which disproportionately hit those living in the developing countries. The group is also examining how poor people can gain better access to medicines.

Recommendations on eight elements, including a priority list for R&D and sustainable financing mechanisms, will be finalised at a further meeting of the group next year. Other points under discussion include:

* promoting R&D

* technology transfer

* management of intellectual property

* monitoring and reporting systems and

* improved delivery and access.

WHO hopes to present a strategy for adoption at the World Health Assembly in 2008.