California health justice advocate Priti Krishtel was appointed to the O’Neill-Lancet Commission on Racism, Structural Discrimination and Global Health to advance anti-racist policies and actions that break down barriers to health and well-being. Indian-American has spent 20 years uncovering structural inequalities affecting access to medicines and vaccines in the Global South and the United States.
The three-year commission, whose secretariat is based at the O’Neill Institute at Georgetown University Law Center, includes nearly 20 experts from around the world with the goal of advancing anti-racism policies and interventions that break down barriers to health and well-being. The Commission begins with substantial evidence that communities face health barriers based solely on race, ethnicity, tribe, caste, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, ability, class, geography or religion.
In a statement, Krishtel said she was “proud to serve on this commission that will help shape a future where all people know they can keep their loved ones healthy, where people actively shape, like the access to medicines for their families and communities.”
Earlier in her career, Krishtel, a 2020 McArthur Fellow of the Year, worked to improve access to antiretroviral (ARV) treatments at the height of the global AIDS epidemic, according to her profile on the McArthur website. She worked with patients dying of AIDS and saw firsthand how patent monopolies often reduced the availability of life-saving drugs in low-income countries.
In 2006, she co-founded the Initiative for Medicines, Access, and Knowledge (I-MAK) to ensure the public has a voice in the drug patent system. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, she has argued vigorously that incentivizing innovation should not come at the expense of equity and public health. Particularly in the case of public health emergencies and tax-funded research, commercial and public interests can be reconciled. She advances understanding of how intellectual property politics can impact personal, public, and global healthcare, and she and I-MAK envision a patent system that benefits all people, regardless of geography and economic status comes.
Krishtel received a BA from the University of California at Berkeley and a JD from the New York University School of Law. She worked with Indian NGO Lawyers Collective before co-founding I-MAK. She has published in a variety of scientific journals and media platforms, including Science, Journal of the International AIDS Society, The British Medical Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, and USA Today.