[Ip-health] TWN Info: Ebola: Company avoids benefit-sharing obligation by using sequences

Sangeeta Shashikant sangeeta at twnetwork.org
Wed May 15 15:49:54 PDT 2019

TWN Info Service on IP, Health, Biodiversity and TK
15 May 2019
Third World Network

Dear friends and colleagues,

“Ebola: Company avoids benefit-sharing obligation by using sequences” by Edward Hammond. 

A US company’s new Ebola drug has been developed using the digital sequence information (DSI) of an Ebola virus from the 2014 West African epidemic. This case is sure to draw heavy attention in upcoming intergovernmental discussions at the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the World Health Organization on access and benefit sharing for pathogens and other genetic resources.

The Ebola sequence was posted online by a European research institute that applies mandatory benefit-sharing obligations to transfers of physical virus samples, but made access to sequences of the same virus available with “no strings attached”.

The paper looks at the case of US pharmaceutical company Regeneron which developed an Ebola drug using the digital sequence information (DSI) of an Ebola virus strain from the clinical sample of a Guinean patient. While Regeneron has patented the drug and secured deals worth over $400 million for it, the company is under no obligation to share the resulting benefits with the country of origin of the virus strain, Guinea. This is because the DSI had been made available online by a research institute with “no strings attached” – highlighting a serious gap in efforts to ensure that the benefits arising from the use of genetic resources are equitably shared. The case concretely demonstrates how DSI can be used to avoid the benefit-sharing obligations of the CBD and its Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing.

This Briefing Paper is also available on the TWN website in English at www.twn.my/title2/briefing_papers/No99.pdf
 and in French at http://www.twn.my/title2/briefing_papers/No99-fr.pdf

With best wishes,
Third World Network

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