While the number of patented medicines on the EML has increased in recent editions, the portion of the list currently under patent remains a small portion of all drugs on the EML, currently about 10%. A deeper dive into the data shows that many drugs are only patented in a fraction of lower income countries. Thus, 80% of lower income countries have 50 or fewer active patent filings on that ten percent. Moreover, many of these patented drugs are subject to institutionalized programs to provide access at lower cost. This paper provides an update to previous efforts to understand the nature of the EML, while expanding previous information thanks in part to the existence of new freely accessible online databases showing patent status and participation in programs to provide access.
Are Chinese politics a threat to the patent system?
In this 2-minute video, Gaétan de Rassenfosse, Chair of Innovation and IP Policy at EPFL, explains that foreign companies operating in China are less likely to have their patent applications granted than their Chinese counterparts. This discrimination occurs in technologies of strategic importance to the Chinese government, particularly in the telecommunication and biotech industries.
Techinvention’s scFv libraries help fight COVID-19
Innovation Council member Techinvention, has successfully generated two scFv libraries using phage display technologies from the convalescent plasma of COVID-19 recovered patients. The library now with us includes one billion different clones of antibody genes (VHs-Vκs and VHs-Vλs) with high probability to get high affinity fully human antibodies. This library will be used for the development of monoclonal antibody against multiple proteins of SARS-CoV-2 to address the looming threat posed by emerging mutant strains. It can also be used for diagnostic purposes, bioassays kit development, affinity maturation, studying protein-protein interactions and developing antibodies against other viral diseases with grave consequences and unmet medical needs.
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South Africa: Covid Vaccine Manufacturing
To battle COVID-19, the world will need vaccines. Expanding global manufacturing capacity is part of ensuring there are enough to go around. Biovac, based in South Africa, is committed to the long fight against the pandemic. The CEO, Dr Morena Makhoana, estimates that Biovac will be able to produce as many as 30 million doses of a Covid-19 vaccine. Biovac is part-owned by the South African Government. The company is still engaged in talks with global pharmaceutical companies regarding manufacturing and producing Covid-19 vaccines at its facilities in South Africa. The emergence of the second, more lethal variant has added some complexity – and urgency.
U.S. patent chief warns against ‘drastic’ actions in light of COVID
A top U.S. official on Tuesday dismissed calls for countries to waive intellectual property protections on vaccines and other products to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
“Before any drastic measures are taken with respect to IP rights, evidence must be brought to bear that such measures are actually needed,” Andrei Iancu, director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, said during a discussion hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “This has not happened.”
“To the contrary, the evidence to date shows that there is an unprecedented level of cooperation in industry, and that IP has facilitated this worldwide cooperation,” Iancu added.
Collaboration to enhance availability of COVID-19 therapeutics
As of November 2020, at least 44 manufacturing and production deals for COVID-19 therapeutics around the globe were made public. A number of these deals were intended to expand access to therapeutics to low and middle-income countries. In relation to all of them, licensing, enabled by a well well-functioning intellectual property system, has been a key enabler.
- Eli Lilly and Company and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, as part of the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator, have entered into an agreement to facilitate access to future Lilly therapeutic antibodies under development for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19, to benefit low- and middle-income countries. Lilly’s collaborators have agreed to waive their royalties on the Lilly therapeutic antibodies distributed in low- and middle-income countries as part of this initiative.
- Gilead has entered into voluntary licensing agreements with nine generics manufacturers to further expand supply of remdesivir to 127 countries that represent nearly all low-income and lower-middle income countries. Gilead has completed technology transfers with these companies, and they are beginning the manufacturing process.
- Merck, IAVI, and Serum Institute of India are collaborating to develop a neutralizing monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID-19. If successful, Merck will lead commercialization in developed countries and the Serum Institute will lead global manufacturing as well as commercialization in low- and middle-low-income countries, including India.
Collaborations to accelerate COVID-19 vaccine development and distribution
The need for the rapid development and global distribution of a vaccine to prevent COVID-19 infection has spurred a number of novel collaborations between the pharmaceutical companies, research entities, and other stakeholders. These collaborations aim to ensure broad access to new health technologies to address the pandemic.
- One example is the University of Oxford Jenner Institute vaccine candidate, developed with AstraZeneca, that included collaborations with Catalent Biologics (Italy), Symbiosis Pharmaceutical Services (UK), Oxford Biomedica (UK), Emergent BioSolutions, BioKangtai (China), and R-Pharm (Russia). Through the WHO’s Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator, AstraZeneca signed an agreement with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, on vaccine development, manufacturing, and procurement, ensuring 300 million doses of the vaccine for low- and middle-income countries. Separately, AstraZeneca also signed a license agreement with the Serum Institute of India (SII) to supply 1 billion doses of vaccine to low- and middle-income countries.
- Another example involves Sanofi and GSK, which signed a Statement of Intent with Gavi, to make available 200 million doses of their adjuvanted recombinant protein-based COVID-19 vaccine, if approved by regulatory authorities.
- A third example focuses on Johnson & Johnson. The company has committed to bringing an affordable vaccine to the public on a not-for-profit basis for emergency pandemic use and anticipates the first batches of a COVID-19 vaccine to be available for emergency use authorization in early 2021.
How the Oxford COVID vaccine was made so quickly
This article examines the context in which the Oxford COVID vaccine was developed – such as the slow response to the Ebola outbreak – and new technological breakthroughs at Oxford’s Jenner Institute that enabled researchers to cut 10 years of vaccine work down to 10 months.
Art exhibit on cell-based meat prompts mixed views
This article explores the mixed reactions to a new art exhibit commenting on lab-grown meat. The installation of steak grown from human cells at the Design Museum in London was intended to criticize the meat industry’s rising use of living cells from animals. It ended up triggering a roiling debate about bioethics and the pitfalls of artistic critique.