A Closer Look at Intellectual Property and the COVID-19 Response
The 73rd World Health Assembly recently highlighted the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with all stakeholders working together to find solutions. It’s important to remember that intellectual property (IP) protections foster a robust innovation ecosystem and allow biopharmaceutical innovators to develop therapies and vaccines for patients in the MENA region and around the globe.
Biopharmaceutical companies worldwide are working around the clock to speed the development of potential treatments and cures for COVID-19, a disease caused by a novel strain of coronavirus. For example, Gilead Sciences recently initiated Phase 3 studies to evaluate the safety and efficacy of remdesivir in adults. AstraZeneca has utilized its expertise in infectious disease and proprietary antibody discovery technology to find novel coronavirus-neutralizing antibodies. The Paul-Ehrlich-Institut, Germany’s regulatory authority, also recently approved Phase 1 and 2 clinical trials for Pfizer and BioNtech’s potential mRNA-based vaccine. Altogether, about 400 potential coronavirus treatments and vaccines are in development, with more than 1,020 clinical trials under way.
Effective IP protection facilitated this rapid response and will continue to play a vital role in promoting competition and spreading knowledge. IP rights provide innovators with the certainty that their proprietary products are protected from copycats, which, in turn, encourages them to pursue new ideas and contribute to the global innovation ecosystem. In exchange for these protections, innovators publish their findings so others may learn from their research and use it as a starting point for future discoveries – including life-saving medical technologies.
Those impacted by COVID-19 are relying on strong IP protections to increase patient access to new treatment options. World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Director General Francis Gurry stated, “Our response to the current crisis demonstrates that we have the collective wisdom, the ingenuity and the creativity to rise to these challenges and to shape a future, one that is safe, sustainable and green. And, as we look to that future, we see that [IP]-driven innovation and innovative thinking are central to solving our shared, global challenges.”
The benefits of IP rights become even more apparent when public and private sectors work together toward a common goal. Both governments and companies throughout the MENA region have contributed to various efforts aimed at minimizing the impact of COVID-19 on patients and front line health care workers. For example, Novartis Algeria recently donated medical supplies to the Central Pharmacy of Hospitals, while Boehringer Ingelheim Jordan contributed diabetes and cardiovascular medicines to the Jordanian Ministry of Health.
Innovators from around the globe rely on IP rights and the incentives they offer to discover new life-saving medical advancements, including those needed to address the current global public health crisis.