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Where health and law intersect

Matthew Herder, director of the Health Law Institute and an associate professor in the Department of Pharmacology, researches the structures, incentives and policies that support bio-medical innovation—and looks at how we make sure drugs and vaccines coming out of that process are safe, effective and well-regulated. He is one of the only legal scholars in Canada working in this area. He has studied how an extremely promising experimental Ebola vaccine developed at a Canadian government lab languished in the hands of a U.S. company, and has worked to ensure data on drug research is widely available.

Foundation: Prof. Herder started off looking at how discoveries made at universities get commercialized. But soon after coming to Dal in 2010, he began studying and advocating for greater drug regulation transparency. MP Terence Young, whose daughter Vanessa died after taking a prescription drug, introduced legislation (Vanessa’s Law) allowing for unsafe drugs to be recalled faster. Prof. Herder supported it, suggesting amendments to increase transparency. In March 2019, Health Canada launched a website providing public access to research and clinical trial information.

Inspiration: “My mentors, Dr. Jocelyn Downie of the law school and Dr. Francoise Baylis of the medical school, have a commitment to translating scholarship into action in order to improve the public good and they have deeply embedded that commitment in me as well.”

Why it matters: Leaning on Vanessa’s Law, Prof. Herder has argued that high-dose opioids could be deemed unsafe and recalled. His advocacy for greater transparency could help researchers spot problems with drugs earlier. The federal cabinet has recognized his expertise and appointed him to the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board.