Currently, the pharmaceutical industry has 133 vaccine candidates under development, 20 pharmaceutical companies are focused on finding a cure or treatment for coronavirus, and there are 35 ongoing clinical studies. In addition, the industry has donated more than USD 25 million in medicines and medical protective equipment, USD 40 million in in-kind donations, and USD 700 million in monetary donations. All these achievements and processes have only been possible thanks to two things: experience gained by decades and intellectual property.
Intellectual property has allowed a quick response to the coronavirus emergency, as it has used products and compounds that companies have been investigated for years, as explained by FIFARMA Director, Rafael Andrés Díaz-Granados, in the Afidro webinar held on June 10th. Companies that are currently in clinical trials are clear about the challenges of creating a vaccine. They have also committed publicly and globally to work closely with governments, in order for the vaccine to reach every country, mainly most vulnerable populations.
Research capacity of pharmaceutical industry is large and broad; If two or more companies in the sector associate with the same goal, results may be faster and may remain for future generations. Researching with a greater budget will have a direct impact on people’s quality of life, not only with coronavirus, but with any disease or virus that may appear.
Intellectual Property protects and encourages innovation and ensures that new medications are researched and developed. As for coronavirus, while a treatment or vaccine to eradicate the same is found, doctors are using existing antibiotics and retroviral medications to treat coronavirus. This has helped recovering over 5 million people around the world. Now, to explore benefits of Intellectual Property, it is important to understand what it means.
What is Intellectual Property?
According to the World Intellectual Property Organization, a United Nations agency, Intellectual Property (IP) is a creation of the mind used in commerce. By protecting this idea, it is possible to receive recognition or earnings from inventions.
Incentives are essential
To explain the importance of Intellectual Property in times of pandemic, Francis Gurry, director of the World Intellectual Property Organization, wrote that the role of Intellectual Property today is to provide an incentive framework where innovation is shielded in order to navigate through the complex stages involved in moving from an invention to the marketing of a product.
According to Megan Van Etten, PhRMA Director of Public Affairs, thanks to IP, the pharmaceutical industry responded faster than ever. A good example of this rapid response is the proposal from Pharmaceutical Inovio -which created a vaccine against Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)- in partnership with the Beijing Advaccine Biotechnology, to create a DNA-based vaccine.
Another example is the alliance between Johnson & Johnson and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to create a vectors-based vaccine, an effective method used to create a vaccine for Ebola. Lastly, it is worth naming the effort of GlaxoSmithKline, which shared its patented adjuvants (ingredients added to vaccines to increase their effectiveness) with different companies and Universities.
In this regard, the Director of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA), Thomas Cueni, explained in an online update on the status of the vaccine that “the discussion against IP shows a lack of understanding because the most important is the know-how behind a vaccine”. Similarly, Albert Bourla, Pfizer CEO, assured at the same event that pharmaceutical companies are willing “to help and support, for example, 487 companies have approached Pfizer to ask for collaboration in their investigations.”
In short, Intellectual Property is a silent partner that allows a promising and innovative development. Female and male scientists who are currently working at their maximum capacity deserve recognition for their work and an incentive to continue navigating in search of a solution to the pandemic. The future of humanity is in the hands of science.
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