[Ip-health] Stat: Moderna vows not to enforce Covid-19 patents, but advocates say IP should be given to WHO

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Thu Oct 8 13:00:44 PDT 2020


Moderna vows not to enforce Covid-19 patents, but advocates say IP should
be given to WHO
By ED SILVERMAN @Pharmalot

OCTOBER 8, 2020

Amid growing concern over access to Covid-19 medical products, Moderna
(MRNA) has decided not to enforce its patent rights related to its
experimental vaccine and will also license its intellectual property to any
Covid-19 vaccines to others after the pandemic has ended.

The decision means other companies or governments should not have concerns
that the biotech would seek to prevent other Covid-19 vaccines from being
developed based on its technology. “We feel a special obligation under the
current circumstances to use our resources to bring this pandemic to an end
as quickly as possible,” the company said in a brief statement (here are
the patents).

The move comes after consumer advocates pressed the biotech over
contributions that the federal government made to its vaccine. A recent
report by Public Citizen asserted that the National Institutes of Health
played a “critical role” in coronavirus research and the federal government
had filed multiple patents for a Covid-19 vaccine that Moderna is

Consumer groups had a mixed reaction, though, to the news. While praising
the company, they also voiced skepticism about its reasoning. In a
securities filing two months ago, for instance, Moderna executives
acknowledged they were uncertain whether the company was the first to make
the inventions claimed in patents or pending patent applications, including
the Covid-19 vaccine (see page 90).

“Moderna’s move presumably is designed to help the corporation avoid costly
patent litigation. It shows that patents indeed are a barrier to vaccine
production, unless governments and corporations choose to make that
patented technology available to all,” Peter Maybarduk, who heads the
access to medicines program at Public Citizen, said in a statement.

The advocacy group argued that, through patent applications and
collaborative agreements, the U.S. government has a stake in the vaccine
and could try to make it a free or low-cost public good with wide
distribution. Public Citizen maintained the government should condition
Moderna’s use of U.S.-patented vaccine inventions on “reasonable pricing
and ensuring sufficient supply.”

Another consumer group, meanwhile, claimed Moderna received federal grants
that were not properly disclosed in its vaccine patents or patent
applications. Under federal law, Moderna is required to disclose grants
that led to nearly a dozen specific patent applications and the financial
support means the U.S. government would have certain rights over the
patents. Put another way, U.S. taxpayers would have an ownership stake in
vaccines developed by the company.

Two government agencies — the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development
Authority and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency — began
conducting reviews in response to the assertions made by Knowledge Ecology
International, which examines intellectual property rights to advocate for
greater access to medicines.

Both advocacy groups urged Moderna to go further, though.

“Moderna should take the next step and dedicate its technology to the World
Health Organization, so that the world can prepare to make vaccines for
billions of people, rather than permit a vaccine apartheid where only
wealthy countries have vaccine access,” said Maybarduk.

Similarly, Jamie Love, who heads KEI, argued that Moderna should work with
the WHO, which formed a mechanism for sharing vaccine patent data, as well
as the Medicines Patent Pool, a United Nations-backed agency that licenses
HIV, tuberculosis, and hepatitis C treatments from drug makers, in order to
provide access in poor countries. The MPP is working with the WHO on
Covid-19 patents.

Along with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and the Coalition for Emergency
Preparedness Innovations, or CEPI, the WHO is establishing Covax, a vaccine
purchasing pool in which 172 countries exchange expertise. The plan is to
pool economic resources of its member countries to enable vaccine
developers to make high-risk investments and subsidize vaccine costs for
lower and middle-income countries.

“Every manufacturer of a vaccine, drug or diagnostic should follow suit and
publish the patents relevant to the technology, waive or license rights in
those patents, and also provide constructive transfer of manufacturing
know-how and access to cell lines and data when necessary,” said Love in a

About the AuthorReprints

Ed Silverman

Pharmalot Columnist, Senior Writer

Ed covers the pharmaceutical industry.

 ed.silverman at statnews.com

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

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