Profile of James Love, "Big Pharma's worst nightmare"

Jamie Love is one of the founders of Knowledge Ecology International (formerly the Consumer Project on Technology), a super-effective activist NGO that helped to establish low-cost, global access to HIV/AIDS drugs.

I've known Jamie for more than a decade, when he and his partner/wife Manon Ress brought me to Geneva to work alongside them at the United Nations' World Intellectual Property Organization. I watched him work the system, switching easily from good cop to bad cop as the case demanded. He pulled together a huge and amazing coalition that ultimately sidelined a punishing Internet treaty — incidentally, that victory spurred the US Trade Representative to kick off closed-door, secretive alternatives like ACTA and TPP.

The Guardian's Sarah Boseley has a fantastic profile of Love, starting with his early days as a high-school dropout who ended up in an Alaska fish cannery where he railed against the racial discrimination against his Filipino co-workers and organized a name-and-shame campaign to pressure doctors who wouldn't take Medicaid patients. Ultimately, Love returned to school, getting a masters at Harvard and a doctorate at Princeton, then going to work as a campaigner with Ralph Nader.

It was after his Nader years that Love became one of the leading campaigners for equitable access to live-saving pharmaceuticals, working with governments and intergovernmental organizations to impose compulsory licenses on drugs that allowed them to be made domestically at a fraction of the cost. He pioneered the Access to Medicines Treaty, building an alliance with Médecins Sans Frontières that began to scare the hell out of Big Pharma.

I'm proud to count Love as a colleague and friend, and I learned a lot from this profile of one of the world's great unsung heroes.

Love had won, but he had made enemies in the companies fighting to defend their intellectual property rights. He discovered that private detectives had been hired to spy on him. "One day a guy came over and knocked on our door. We opened the door and the guy said, 'You don't know me. I know you. For the past two years it's been my job to follow what you do every day,'" Love recalled. The man had just been fired from PhRMA (the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America) and wanted to let Love know he was being watched.

Love's organisation was also struggling for funds. As they moved into global issues, Nader, whose organisation focused on the US, stopped bankrolling them. Other philanthropic foundations in the US pulled out of work on intellectual property (Love believes this was a result of lobbying from drug companies and other corporations that campaigners had targeted). They slimmed down, pared back the staff, stayed in budget hotels, but they kept going.

Big Pharma's worst nightmare
[Sarah Boseley/The Guardian]

(Image: Jamie Love asks the guy from WIPO a question, Fred Benenson, CC-BY)