Waiving IP Rights During Times of COVID: A ‘False Good Idea’
For Hans Sauers, it is clear that the COVID pandemic is being used as a cover narrative to argue for a quantum leap in the debate over IP and public health. In other words, taking away or denying patent rights is, according to some, no longer enough. Affirmative expropriation and the forced transfer of industrial property is taking its place on the NGO agenda – at least with respect to vaccine originator companies from North America and Western Europe. It is unclear why, but no nongovernmental group is demanding similar access to Russian, Chinese, or Indian COVID vaccine technology, even though there is no convincing reason to be dismissive of these products. Expectations that manufacturers around the world could, due to reduced IP protections, “freely” and independently make versions of existing COVID-19 vaccines within months are simply unrealistic. Indeed, there is no such thing as a “generic vaccine,” as some IP waiver proponents expect. Any resulting products would inevitably differ in quality, safety, and efficacy, and would not be approvable without running new rounds of expensive and time-consuming clinical trials. This inefficiency would be exacerbated by the diversion of scarce raw materials away from up-and-running manufacturers to inexperienced, first-time producers, who would produce at lower efficiency (at least initially) and, indeed, often in regions that lack biologics-manufacturing infrastructure. Such supply diversions, and the resulting inefficiencies, would only make it harder to maintain current global vaccine production, and worldwide COVID vaccine output would decline, not grow.
The European digital health revolution in the wake of COVID-19
Although European health systems have just faced the most challenging public health threat in their modern history, there have been some promising side effects in the form of industry disruptions catalysed by digital health. During this time of crisis, digital health has stepped in to provide expedient healthcare services that offer effectiveness, safety, and even humanity to patients who suffer from chronic conditions or need immediate health care. The European Commission recently recognized this, by proposing the EU4Health programme as part of a larger COVID-19 recovery response programme. The initiative aims to raise €5.1 billion to digitally transform the EU health sector and ensure preparedness for future cross-border health threats.
Africa needs vaccines. What would it take to make them here?
The authors of this article show that, by their estimates, the public market for vaccines in Africa could rise from $1.3 billion today to between $2.3 billion and $5.4 billion by 2030 (depending on the scenario). While Africa’s population is growing faster than that of most other regions, significant immunization coverage gaps remain, and new products (such as vaccines for Lassa fever or malaria) could be introduced and used widely on the continent. Leaders are increasingly aware of the importance of health security, both for its own sake and as a critical tool for securing the continent’s development, and are increasingly heeding calls for investments into vaccine manufacturing to prevent African countries from being last in line for vital supplies.
Podcast about vaccines and IP protection
Munk Debates wants to help the world rediscover the art of civil and substantive public debate by convening the brightest thinkers of our time to weigh in on the big issues of the day. Their debate on vaccines provides two interesting perspectives on the vaccine rollout and IP protection.
Opinion: How Intellectual Property Rights Helped America Fight COVID-19
James Pooley, a former deputy director general of WIPO and a member of the Center for Intellectual Property Understanding, explains in this article how past investments in R&D helped in the fight against Covid-19. Over the last 10 years alone, drug companies have invested more than $1.5 trillion in global pharmaceutical research (notably, the US—home to less than 5% of the world’s population—accounts for roughly half of all international pharmaceutical R&D spending). With this in mind, it takes years to develop a new medicine, conduct clinical studies, and navigate regulatory review; indeed, it costs $2.6 billion, on average, to bring a new drug to market. Patents, however, give innovators a fair opportunity to recoup their investment costs before generics firms can manufacture copycat medicines, making it possible for companies to chase state-of-the-art ideas.
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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Launch Event of ACCELERATE2030 4th Edition, 25 March
The launch event of ACCELERATE2030 4th Edition as part of the United Nations SDG Global Festival of Action will take place on Thursday 25 March 2021 from 18.30 – 19.15 CET. This year’s theme is “Partnerships for Circular Economy” and the launch event will be an opportunity to meet global leaders as well as entrepreneurs supported by Accelerate2030, and to learn how your organisation can get engaged in 2021 and beyond.
The COVID-19 pandemic put in evidence that no organisation or individual can address the global economic, social and environmental challenges that we face with an independent approach. It is now time to rebuild the existing business models with a more circular approach and address change by prioritising solutions that help reform systems around the world.
Covid Vaccines: Intellectual Property and Access, a Melting Pot of Viewpoints
Innovation Council member SARIMA has published an article by Dr Andrew Bailey, in which he explains the various views on the issue of access to IP in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. He sees a need for governments to build capacity in the manufacture of vaccines, in order to both meet local demand and assist with pandemic response.
During the pandemic, there was incredible collaboration across institutional, corporate, and national boundaries to address the urgent health crisis. Bailey hopes that this experience will shape global thinking about collaboration, and about how to ensure equitable access to healthcare whilst taking care to properly respect the infrastructural investments, trade secrets, and know-how of manufacturers.
Bio-Pharmaceutical Manufacturing and R&D: The Impact of Policy Coherence in Trade Policy
This Innovation Council working paper illustrates the importance of policy coherence in the realm of biopharmaceutical manufacturing and R&D. Specifically, it shows that investing in diversified, geographically dispersed sources of R&D and production can increase manufacturing capacity and strengthen health security by complementing existing pharmaceutical production chains, thus making them less vulnerable to future supply chain shocks. It shows that counterproductive trade measures, such as tariffs on the development and production of vaccines and other health technologies, can slow development, and that—especially in light of the experience of Covid-19—distributed manufacturing and R&D capabilities are particularly useful in the area of biopharmaceuticals.