Health

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.

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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.

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The pandemic has inspired and challenged medical innovation

The need for new and more effective methods of prevention and treatment is constant, and the spread of COVID-19 has emphasized that demand. During the Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation’s “Healthcare Innovation during the COVID-19 Pandemic” discussion on February 12, experts from academia and industry examined the latest advances in the field and how the very process of medical innovation is being reinvented amid the greatest global health crisis in at least a century. One conclusion they found: Reinventing innovation can mean re-applying ideas used previously.

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Considering All Sides of Medicines Patents

For many years, policy experts and others have engaged in wide-ranging debates about patents on pharmaceuticals, particularly in developing countries. On the one hand, it has been argued that IP protection provides crucial incentives to the pharmaceutical industry to undertake more research on tropical diseases. On the other hand, the patenting of pharmaceuticals has been criticised as causing challenges regarding access to medicines. The brief examines in detail the rationale for patenting medicines. The examination includes an investigation into the role of the patent system in relation to the pharmaceutical industry, the moral limits of patents, how the exclusion of a patent can create social costs, the rationale for the patenting of  medicines and the incentive theory and how this can be balanced with access to medicines.

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Patenting and Covid-19 Vaccines

Patents have had an important role in organising the collaborations that led to the development and commercialization of COVID-19 vaccines. Patenting is a crucial tool in research-based industries like pharmaceuticals and biologics and can be a means to encourage collaboration. Terms can be negotiated to have different types of expertise combined in one project. The virus will likely garner another sort of PIP-type or any other similar program which will encourage contractual licensing of innovative IP in exchange for access to specialized expertise or important biological data. Monopolisation should clearly be avoided, and patent pooling must be the way forward to obtain sufficient vaccines for Covid-19 as early as possible.

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Healthcare Needs More Diverse Experts To Guide Innovation

According to Silicon Valley Bank, total healthtech investment in 2020 was $15.3 billion, compared to just $10.6 billion in 2019. While healthcare deals were up across the board, a trend towards telehealth, virtual clinical trials, and other remote practices helped bring digital health to the forefront. However, many great ideas failed simply because they lacked access to knowledgeable insiders. And those experts that did exist tended to be monolithic or act as gatekeepers rather than sources of valuable guidance. Shelli Pavone founded Inlightened to help bridge that gap and break the hold of those gatekeepers. By creating a vast network of diverse healthcare experts for innovators to tap for guidance, she hopes to nudge more good ideas towards solving healthcare’s most compelling problems.

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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.

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How the pandemic catalyzed innovation in health IT, per 8 hospital execs

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated innovation at hospitals across the USA by forcing them to adopt new, digitally focused ways of delivering care, paving the way for further tech-enabled improvements after the pandemic subsides. In this interview, eight hospital and health system innovation leaders weigh in on how healthcare innovation trends have grown amid the pandemic.

The interviewees acknowledge that the pandemic has taken away everyone’s excuses as to why telehealth cannot work and instead made them focus on how and why it must work. Before the pandemic, most traditional brick-and-mortar providers in our industry saw telehealth as a threat and were thus quite biased to focus on its shortcomings. Not surprisingly, they were quick to point out why telehealth was not ideal – or even ‘dangerous’ – for  ‘most’ encounters. Payers sang the same tune, as they have always been wary of the potential for unchecked overutilization of telehealth.

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Why intellectual property rights are a key, not a curse, for COVID-19 vaccines

The whole world is waiting for the distribution of vaccines against COVID-19 and should be distributed to all adults globally over the next 18 months. Calls are getting louder that intellectual property rights (IPR) should be suspended to allow unfettered vaccine manufacture will mean faster access for developing countries. The head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, gave tacit support this week, warning of a “catastrophic moral failure” caused by unequal access to COVID vaccines. However, IP has played a vital role in every step of vaccine research, manufacturing and distribution. The Pfizer/BioNtech partnership behind the first vaccine to be authorised in the US would not have taken place without strong IP rights.

In a competitive market, no single company will monopolise COVID vaccines or succeed in “profiteering”. A zero IP world would be a backward step and discourage companies from making urgently needed refinements to existing vaccines to combat new COVID-19 variants.

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