Health justice lawyer is among 25 recipients of MacArthur 'genius grants'
Lawyer Priti Krishtel is one of 25 recipients of the MacArthur Foundation fellowships, commonly known as “genius grants.” Photos from the MacArthur Foundation.
A lawyer who is trying to increase access to lifesaving medications by changing the patent system is one of 25 recipients of the MacArthur Foundation fellowships, commonly known as "genius grants."
Lawyer Priti Krishtel, 44, will receive $800,000, awarded over five years with no strings attached, report the New York Times, Law360 and the Mercury News.
The award recognizes exceptional creativity and significant accomplishments that show promise for future advancements.
Krishtel is a 2002 graduate of the New York University School of Law who lives in Oakland, California. She worked with AIDS and HIV patients in India early in her career, where she learned that people were dying because they couldn’t afford antiretroviral treatments. Although the patent system spurs innovation, she learned, many pharmaceutical companies extend their monopolies by getting patents on small changes on existing drugs.
Krishtel co-founded the Initiative for Medicines, Access and Knowledge in 2006. She is currently co-executive director of the group, which has contested patents with the aim of lowering the cost of medication.
Krishtel said during a 2020 TED Talks interview that her father was a successful inventor who had many patents, according to the Mercury News. But the system has been distorted by pharmaceutical companies, she said. She thinks that, in addition to drug companies, average Americans should have standing in court to challenge patents.
“We need to do three things,” Krishtel told Law360. “First, we need to raise the bar for what is considered an invention. The second thing we need to do is increase public participation in the system. And the third thing we need to do is make sure that there are strings attached to public funding. The combination of those three things would be a giant step forward from the situation we’re in today.”
The full list of the new MacArthur fellows includes a sociologist who studies gun culture, an environmental engineer who investigates plastic pollution, an astrodynamicist who advocates for space environmentalism, and a criminologist who studies the long-term consequences of incarceration.
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