Intellectual property is paving the way for a promising future – saving lives through investing millions in research to discover and create multiple COVID-19 vaccines. The development of multiple coronavirus vaccines, treatments, and diagnostics in record time will be remembered as some of modern-day science’s greatest achievements. The biopharmaceutical industry continues to work around the clock to advance safe and effective treatments for COVID-19, collaborating with the United States and global health authorities to combat this global public health emergency as quickly as possible.
With COVID-19 cases declining across the United States and the increased number of vaccines available, many feel optimistic about the immediate future. If we hope for these positive advances to continue and a COVID-free future to become a reality, intellectual property protections are critical.
As the foundation of our efforts to increase manufacturing capacity and find solutions to the virus, intellectual property rights must be protected by the Administration both internationally and domestically. A recent letter to the President highlights such priorities, stating that “eliminating these protections would undermine the global response to the pandemic, including ongoing effort to tackle new variants.” Viruses are constantly changing, as is the case with COVID-19. These changes also referred to as variants, strains, or mutations, have different characteristics than the original COVID-19 variant.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently identified several additional COVID-19 virus variants among the general United States population. These more infectious strains spread more efficiently and at accelerated rates, comparable to natural selection as these new strains are created for the virus to survive. The new variants found in places like Brazil and South Africa are mutating quickly and a harsh reality that immunity and current vaccines are not absolute.
Moderna recently announced a finalized, modified vaccine that targets the strain first found in South Africa. They are also in the process of an additional vaccine that would target multiple strains, as well as a ‘third-dose booster’ for those who have already been vaccinated with the original vaccine to protect them for potential additional strains.
Johnson & Johnson has entered into multiple agreements to expand manufacturing capacity and has partnered with United States partners: Grand River Aseptic Manufacturing PCI, Catalent, Inc., and Emergent BioSolutions as well as five international partners. Sanofi will provide manufacturing support to Johnson & Johnson for their COVID-19 vaccine to address global supply demands.
The advances made by these vaccine creators along with others, such as Pfizer and Novovax, are only possible through a strengthened intellectual property system with protections for inventors and innovation. Any effort to debilitate these protections will cease progress and limit pharmaceutical achievement.
If we fail to prevent COVID-19 transmission quickly, we will increase the probability of an additional, potentially deadly variant that could overtake all the progress we have made thus far. The United States must partner with allied nations to prevent this through re-engagement with the World Health Organization. It takes us all coming together and accepting the interconnectedness across all nations to put an end once and for all to the COVID-19 virus and protect against a COVID-21, COVID-22, COVID-23 in the future.