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Biotech Community Responds to Intellectual Property Debate

Hundreds of CEOs sign a joint statement, saying IP “created the biotech network that responded so quickly to the COVID crisis in the first place.”

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Led by industry group, BIO, almost 300 biotech CEOs signed a joint statement that argues against waiving intellectual property rights related to COVID-19 vaccines – a proposal put forth by the World Trade Organization that it says would speed vaccinations in poorer countries.

The companies want to help bring COVID-19 vaccines to the world, but say the waiver of intellectual property rights would not solve the vaccine problem in poorer countries. Instead it would exacerbate the situation, fueling “a long contentious global negotiation” and leading to more “vaccine nationalism,” according to the statement. Such a move also would put stress on an already strained global supply chain by shifting resources away from companies that are already collaborating in global partnerships.

Further, waiving IP rights could destabilize the industry’s ability to innovate and attract investors, the CEOs said.

“Intellectual property is the foundation of our sector. It is responsible for creating the global biotech network that responded so quickly to the COVID crisis in the first place,” the statement says. “It is what gives investors the confidence to fund companies with long time horizons and high risks.”

CSL Limited CEO Paul Perreault was among the CEOs who signed the statement alongside leaders from Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and others around the world.

BIO CEO Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath, along with BIO’s state affiliates and the International Council of Biotechnology Associations, led the effort to issue the statement titled “Declaration from Members of the World’s Biotechnology Sector on Global Access to COVID Vaccines & Treatments and the Role of Intellectual Property.”

In it, the CEOs made three additional points:

  1. Our sector must continue to play a constructive, proactive part in developing COVID solutions and the global manufacturing capacity to produce them.
  2. We support strong, collaborative efforts like those endorsed by the G-20 to address the global imbalances in access to COVID vaccines and treatments.
  3. Current estimates are that existing global vaccine manufacturers will produce more than 11 billion doses of COVID vaccines in 2021, and significantly more in the first part of 2022.

Through cross-geographic and cross-functional teams, CSL  is working with AstraZeneca to produce COVID-19 vaccines in Australia. During the pandemic, BIO tracked metrics on the industry’s response. It tallied 950 global R&D projects and 250 partnerships to improve manufacturing capability. In a social post, BIO called the statement “an extraordinary sign of unity.”

The kind of intellectual property at issue “helped ensure the type of global cooperation and partnerships that are driving companies, countries, and manufacturers to quickly scale up the production.”

Read the full statement here.