FDA Returning Patent to Liberian Scientist Following US Congressional Investigation

A U.S. based Liberian Scientist, Dr. Dougbeh Chris Nyan
A U.S. based Liberian Scientist, Dr. Dougbeh Chris Nyan

Washington, DC: The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is returning patent documents to Dr. Dougbeh Chris Nyan, a Liberian-American research scientist, roughly seven months into US Congressional investigation of FDA authorities for “unlawfully” removing the name of lead inventor, Dr. Nyan from patent documents of a pathogen diagnostic test and terminating his research fellowship in retaliation two years ago. Lately, the FDA has written the scientist, informing him that “the FDA does not plan on commercializing the subject referenced invention and will not seek foreign patent protection; should you be interested in personally pursuing patent protection and commercializing the invention, please contact me or Alice as soon as possible,” stated a communication from Whitney Hastings, the FDA’s Intellectual Property Manager.

According to a dispatch from the U.S., this “decision” by the FDA follows inquiries from Congressman Lamar Smith, Chairman of the US Oversight Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, the Committee to which Dr. Nyan filed a complaint against FDA authorities in November 2014 regarding one of his patents. Dr. Nyan, an NIH-trained scientist, is credited with several diagnostic tests inventions for various pathogens including Helicobacter pylori, HIV, Dengue, West Nile virus, HBV, Ebola, Zika, Chikungunya virus, HCV, and Malaria, and other major infections.

As first reported by The Washington Post, Dr. Nyan, an infectious disease specialist,file a complaint against the FDA in 2014 in which he outlined a number of violations allegedly committed by FDA management authorities, including the termination of his research fellowship in what was described as FDA’s “retaliation” for the his September 17, 2014 Congressional Testimony on the Ebola outbreak. The scientist’s testimony advocated for sustained medical relief assistance to the Ebola-affected countries(Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria in West Africa)andfor the establishment of regional Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Liberia and other African sub-regions. An African Center for Disease Control and Prevention was ultimately established and a bill for the establishment of a National Public Institute of Health has been submitted by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to the Liberian legislature.

According to Congressman Lamar Smith’s letter of March 17, 2016, Dr. Deborah Taylor and Dr. Sanjai Kumar of the FDA plotted against Dr. Nyan to terminate his research fellowship.  “Dr. Taylor admitted that she came down hard on the Fellow (Dr. Dougbeh Chris Nyan) when she terminated him, informing him for the first time of Dr. Kumar’s role in plotting against the Fellow. During the conversation, Dr. Taylor admitted her wrongdoing in acceding to the plot to ultimately terminate the Fellow”, the Congressman’s letter revealed.

The FDA’s “decision” to return the patent to Dr. Nyan comes after what appears to be a hard-fought battle. “I thank the Almighty God for leading me through this fight against authorities who abused their powers, conspired to take my invention, and took advantage of my origin and minority status. It was definitely a difficult, but worthy fight and I am glad that the FDA is correcting its unlawful actions by taking its hands off my intellectual property, that is if those authorities at FDA are really sincere about doing so”, said Dr. Nyan. In a story carried by Front Page Africa, the scientist also reportedly rejected royalty payments from the FDA, but demanded full rights, and recently requested the FDA to produce all licensing agreements.

Clarifying the role of contributors to his work, Dr. Nyan stressed that “Mr. Kevin Swinson, my research assistant, is the only legitimate co-inventor on my patent, this patent. The others, including Deborah Taylor, Laura Ulitzky and Maria Rios were wrongly listed on my patent against established inventorship criteria and scientific research ethics. Dr. Nyan further stated that to this date “during the course of this congressional investigation, Taylor, Rios, and Ulitzky have failed to respond to ethical questions as to what qualifies them as inventors on my patent”. Requests for an interview were denied by FDA authorities.

With the FDA forced to return the patent documents of the scientist, “this is a major victory for all hard working scientists fighting against misuse of power, and a benefit for the underprivileged people around the world that will benefit from my pathogen diagnostic tests in fighting infectious diseases,” said Dr. Nyan who recently received awards and recognition in science from various African community organizations in the United States. On July 26, 2016, Dr. Nyan was awarded one of Liberia’s highest honor, the Humane Order of African Redemption, by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the first female elected president in Africa.He also made available one of his inventions to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)and South Africa for development, production, and used for the people of the Ebola-affected regions, Africa, and the global population. Dr. Nyan, a Pan-Africanist, is also an activist for democracy and social justice who was imprisoned by the Liberian military government of General Samuel K. Doe and subsequently exiled in 1988. He earned his medical degree from the Humboldt-University of Berlin in Germany and was trained as a biomedical scientist at the US National Institutes of Health.

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About Cholo Brooks 7301 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists.