[Ip-health] Health Policy Watch: $US 300 Million In New COVID-19 Funding Initiatives Rushed Out By Gates, France & European Commissio

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Thu Nov 12 14:10:45 PST 2020


$US 300 Million In New COVID-19 Funding Initiatives Rushed Out By Gates,
France & European Commission
Pandemics & Emergencies 12/11/2020 • Elaine Ruth Fletcher

A series of new COVID-19 drug and vaccine funding commitments worth just
over US$300 million were announced on Thursday by the Gates Foundation,
France and the European Commission – amidst a quickening pace of
anticipation that at least one, if not two, COVID-19 vaccines may soon
become available.

Appearing at the Paris Peace Forum, Melinda Gates announced a new $US 70
million contribution by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to vaccine
research and the ACT Accelerator’s COVAX facility. The WHO co-sponsored ACT
Accelerator aims to ensure the worldwide distribution of forthcoming COVID
vaccines, along with drugs and tests, to countries that can least afford to
purchase them.

“In this pandemic there is no difference in helping yourself and helping
others,” said Gates. “But its not enough to have the right values, we have
to put enough money behind our values,” said Gates.

She spoke at the Paris Peace Forum shortly after WHO published an urgent
appeal for US $4.579 in immediate financing to the Accelerator’s various
arms of support – which aim to cover worldwide procurement of not only
vaccines, but also COVID-19 tests, treatments – and required health systems
capacity.  Some $US 28 billion will be needed over the course of 2021, WHO
warned, in a detailed investment case, published just hours before the
Paris Peace Forum event.

‘Urgent’ finance asks for COVID-19 drugs, diagnostics, vaccines and related
health system capacity, published by WHO on 12 November 2020

Gates appeared at the Paris Peace Forum high-level event along with French
President Emmanuel Macron, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, European
Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen, and Dr Tedros Adhanom
Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization.  Both the French
President and the Von der Leyen also pledged another €100 million Euros
each to the Act Accelerator vaccines, tests and treatments initiative.

Macron also called upon global leaders to adopt an “Act-A Charter” to
ensure that “regulatory and policies making COVID-19 products available for
all people…if part of the planet is not safe, the entire planet will remain
under threat,” he said.

Added von der Leyen, “If we have a COVID19 vaccine, we should have a common
approach to give a fair share to everyone so the most vulnerable groups,
the frontline workers and the healthcare workers are the ones that get it

Macron’s proposal for a Charter was applauded by WHO’s Dr Tedros who said:
“WHO welcomes the ACT-A Charter, which outlines the core principles of
equity and fair allocation that align this landmark effort to ensure
vaccines, diagnostics and therapeutics are allocated fairly as ‘global
public goods’ and not private commodities.”

Meanwhile, however, Norway’s Solberg stressed that, “money talks” and what
is needed is $US4.5 billion immediately – as well $US28 billion over the
course of 2021 in order to fully fund all four pillars of the Act
Accelerator’s activities.

She was referring to the new WHO “investment case” outlining “Urgent
Priorities and Financing Requirements” for the ACT Accelerator initiative.
Solberg and other panelists pointed out that the monies, while significant,
are small in comparison to the economic costs of a continuing pandemic.

The Act Accelerator’s $US 28.3 billion ask includes: $US 5.3 billion for
COVID tests;  $US 6.1 billion for drugs and other therapeutics; $US 7.8
billion for vaccines; and $US 9.1 billion for upgrading health systems to
make it all happen, states the investment case.

The Access to COVID-19 (Act) Accelerator is a collaboration  between WHO
and the GAVI Vaccine Alliance, the Global Fund, Gates Foundation, The
Wellcome Trust, FIND diagnostics, Unitaid and the Oslo-based Coalition for
Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). It is acting on four pillars –
that aim to ensure worldwide access to COVID drugs, vaccines, tests and
health services.

“Our goal is to accelerate the development of COVID vaccines and ensure
people in all countries get rapid and equitable access regardless of their
ability to pay, said Seth Berkley, CEO of GAVI, also speaking about the
Accelerator at the Paris Peace Forum.

Generic Drug Manufacturers Pledge To Collaborate With Medicines Patent Pool

Meanwhile, a coalition of 18 of the world’s largest generic drug
manufacturers pledged to work with the Geneva-based non-profit Medicines
Patent Pool (MPP) to expedite delivery of the latest COVID-19 drug
solutions, including monoclonal antibodies to low- and middle-income

“We strongly believe that collaboration is the only way we can make it past
this pandemic. Each of us stands ready to contribute to the fight against
COVID-19 through our technical expertise and longstanding experience in
manufacturing and distribution of quality-assured medicines,” states the
pledge, signed by the leading generics manufacturers such as Adcock Ingram,
Celltrion, Sun Pharma, Natco and others.

“This unprecedented cooperation from companies that are typically
competitors represents a breakthrough in our efforts to level the playing
field for access to drugs that will be crucial to controlling and defeating
this pandemic,” said Charles Gore, Executive Director of MPP, in a press
release. “These are companies with an excellent track record of working
with originators to ensure generic versions of their innovations meet high
standards for quality—while answering the need for more affordable,
accessible therapies.”

Gore noted that collectively the 18 companies that have so far joined the
 “open pledge”  have the capacity to deliver huge amounts of conventional
drugs, technically known as “small molecules” in industry parlance.  They
also have a growing capacity to produce cutting-edge “biologics,” or drugs
based on the chemistry of living, biological compounds. Promising COVID-19
biologics include monoclonal antibodies targeting COVID-19 that are
currently in clinical trials, and have shown potential for either treating
or prevent viral infections such as COVID-10. However, their cost and
manufacturing capacity pose substantial barriers to deploying them

Gore said he hopes the pledge by such a respected group of generic industry
players to produce large volumes of high-quality COVID-19 treatments will
encourage firms now developing either new or re-purposed therapies to
negotiate agreements allowing rapid access to those in need. This can be
either through licensing of their intellectual property, or where licences
are not needed, facilitating ways to scale up manufacturing capacity to
meet the high demands.

MPP was created in 2010 by the global health initiative Unitaid to
negotiate license agreements for the generic manufacture of patented drug
products of critical importance to health-care systems in low and middle
income countries – vastly easing the process for generic drug
manufacturers.  Beginning with HIV and Hepatitis C drugs, MPP’s mandate had
recently expanded to include other treatments, most recently COVID-19

World Health Assembly Sees Debate on WTO Patent Waiver Proposals –
Affirmation by Pharma of “Equitable Access”

In a separate statement, the International Federation of Pharmaceutical
Manufacturers and Associations and the International Generic and Biosimilar
Medicines Association, declared their “shared commitment to equitable
acccess to COVID-19 medicines and vaccines” – adding that the pandemic has
also highlighted the “importance of ensuring adequate resources are spent
to build stronger, more resilient health systems that can cope with complex
health challenges.”

The statement, coincided with this week’s World Health Assembly, which saw
a wide-ranging discussion of the COVID-19 pandemic, including fears
expressed by low- and middle-income WHO member states that their countries
could be left out of the COVID-19 vaccine sweepstakes – as rich countries
snap up huge pre-order supplies of those products most likely to come first
to market.

To address those concerns, South Africa and India have already jointly
proposed an IP “waiver” at the World Trade Organization on patents,
copyrights and trade secrets for COVID-related health products – covering
not only drugs, tests and vaccines, but also hospital supplies like
respirator and protective gear.   The “waiver” proposal has, however, so
far failed to make headway against rich countries’ objections. And the
proposal was subject to considerable pushback again at this week’s WHA from
high-income countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom.

Meanwhile, WHO has tried to promote a “third way” including a C-Tap
initiative that would mimic the successful Medicines Patent Pool approach,
but for a wider array of COVID-19 products, particularly vaccines.  So far,
however, that WHO-led effort does not seem to have gained much ground. That
appeared even more evident on Thursday in the news that MPP is now building
an alliance with generic drug manufacturers to negotiate patent pooling
deals over key COVID drugs – in a format that is more predictable and
familiar to industry partners.

Overall, the trends have frustrated medicines access advocates who protest
the notion that public monies will be spent to buy pharma products that
were also financed, in part, by public “Lofty rhetoric on global public
goods and solidarity in the COVID-19 response has not been matched by
concrete action on the sharing of know-how and intellectual property rights
to facilitate deep technology transfer,” said Knowledge Ecology
International’s representative, Thiru Balasubramaniam, during the WHA
debate. At the minimum, he said public funders of COVID-19 R&D, such as
governments and philanthropies should “use their financial leverage to
enable the sharing of know-how, cell lines and rights in data and patents,
for COVID-19 related technologies.”

Along with tried-and-true MPP approaches, the mood at the Paris Peace Forum
made it clear that European leaders are trying to cut a path forward in the
marketplace to ensure universal access to whatever the world needs to
recover from COVID-19.

Rather than upending the established legal order at WTO or anywhere else,
the approach is to leverage huge loans and donations to buy cutting-edge
vaccines, drugs and tests as they come to market – but in coordinated,
large scale deals that would at least be more affordable.

And that, may be the other bottom line of the US$28 billion Ask.

Thiru Balasubramaniam
Geneva Representative
Knowledge Ecology International
41 22 791 6727
thiru at keionline.org

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