There Are Perils To President Biden’s WTO Waiver

The Biden administration wants to improve America’s international reputation. Therefore, we have approved the World Trade Organization’s proposal to waive all intellectual property rights related to COVID-19.

The president undoubtedly intends this offer to be seen as a generous gesture that his “America First” predecessor would never have done. This was a subtext of the announcement, not Trump’s America.

But this support is a toothless virtue, a signal at best, and a dangerous economic surrender in the worst case.

Surprisingly, by doing so, it surprised our European allies. EU countries, especially Germany, do not support the proposed exemption. Even the WTO did not fully agree with the original proposals that would apply to a wide range of medical devices and diagnostics.

In the words of President Biden, the easiest way for the United States to rise its international status is to act as a global “weapon” for vaccines. His administration has already promised to donate more than 580 million surplus doses to developing countries, many of which currently have the highest COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began. .. And the federal government has donated enough money for global vaccination efforts to help developing countries buy an additional 330 million doses.

These are impressive numbers. However, you can donate more of the vaccine surplus. Almost every American who wants to be vaccinated has been vaccinated for months-so it makes little sense to stockpile doses and ruin them.

In contrast, renunciation of intellectual property rights does not increase vaccine supply. This is for many legal and logistical reasons. All 164 WTO member states must agree that the proposal will come into effect. Similar efforts to address the patent and HIV epidemics began in 2001 and were not finally agreed until 2017.

Even if the exemption ultimately obtains unanimous consent from major suppliers and developing countries, there are major obstacles that prevent it from increasing supply.

First, most facilities that can produce vaccines already do so. India’s Serum Institute, the world’s largest vaccine maker, says it plans to produce a billion doses of vaccine this year. Aspen Pharmacare, South Africa’s largest generic drug manufacturer, will produce hundreds of millions of doses. Companies also voluntarily license treatments to developing countries.

Second, the current supply bottleneck is not due to IP protection, but due to lack of raw input.Guardian Journalists asked the CEO of the Serum Institute if they agree with the accusation that “developers holding vaccine patents have too few licensed manufacturers to produce vaccines.” The CEO replied flatly. “No. There are enough manufacturers. It only takes time to scale up. [production].. “

Third, few scientists and engineers fully understand the know-how behind mRNA vaccines. If the exemption is implemented, the government will need to work with the brand manufacturer to transfer its know-how and, in some cases, force the transfer of senior staff. All of these issues can take months, if not years, to resolve and can cause difficult legal issues in the United States and other countries.

Fourth, as Delta variants become more prevalent, the need for collaboration, rather than forced investment cuts, increases. Companies already engaged in vaccine manufacturing are studying boosters. In recent epidemics (HIV, Ebola, SARS, MERS), research and development carried out to address the crisis has led to a surge in innovation. We need to support this virtuous cycle.

In other words, the exemption does not increase vaccine production and is certainly not in time to suppress the outbreak of COVID-19 and new variants in developing countries. However, it can pass on cutting-edge American technology to competitors and impair their ability to meet future challenges.

Bipartisan attention has been focused on the theft of intellectual property from China and other countries. These claims include laws and regulations explicitly designed to enrich Chinese industry at US expense and limit the sharing of technical information, including medical information, with foreign companies. For example, according to USTR, foreign companies doing biotechnology research in China need to partner with Chinese companies to share all the data, records and ownership of the resulting technology.

In fact, China’s position on these issues has worsened in some cases. The United States has called for China to improve its ability to provide early-stage IP protection for new biologics such as vaccines in a recent US-China Phase 1 agreement. China refused to do so under regulations announced in early July.

By providing technology, we are now able to eliminate the risk of theft. It is astounding that the Biden administration is more likely to label future medical advances as “Made in China.” After all, mRNA has many potential uses other than Covid-19. Scientists are already testing whether this technology can prevent cancer and HIV. We cannot afford to lose our current research and competitiveness against the countries that already dominate the supply chain.

Intellectual property rights are a proven element of that struggle for competition. For example, in the 1950s, the US government forced RCA to patent US competitors royalty-free. Due to the lack of revenue from the domestic market, RCA licensed the technology to Japanese companies and eventually expelled US companies.

Today, the transfer of intellectual property rights carries risks beyond economic competitiveness. It also jeopardizes the United States’ ability to respond safely and effectively to everyone’s future pandemics.

The United States needs policies that protect its innovative ecosystem, foster collaboration with trusted partners, and provide vaccines, treatments, and global cooperation. Patents and technology transfer are part of the solution.

The debate over how to waive vaccine intellectual property rights can take years and may not benefit anyone, but the United States’ ability to meet the emerging public health challenges today. May be further impaired.

Mark Cohen is the director of the Asian IP Project at the Berkeley Legal Technology Center at the University of California, Berkeley.

There Are Perils To President Biden’s WTO Waiver Source link There Are Perils To President Biden’s WTO Waiver

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