The World Trade Organization last week approved a deal to loosen intellectual property protections that many policy professionals say will shatter investment and innovation incentives for drugmakers to meet the needs of major health crises. The deal was a blow to vaccine makers such as Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc., which fought to keep the current framework that enabled them to produce life-saving vaccines in record time.
“Anyone with a stake in preventing or responding to future crises should be concerned about the negative effect of this agreement,” said James Pooley, a former deputy director general at the United Nation’s World Intellectual Property Organization.
The IP waiver comes after nearly two years of debate and at a time when initial catalysts for a plan to spur vaccine access and production capabilities have largely been addressed—leaving many in the IP and drug spaces skeptical of the goals of the agreement beyond political gain.
“It delivers the worst possible result: coming at a time when there is an oversupply of vaccines, it is irrelevant to the current crisis; and by reducing the reliability and predictability of patent protection it makes it much harder to secure private investment in the research required to deal with the next global health crisis,” Pooley said.
The waiver indicates that patent rights include ingredients and processes necessary for the manufacture of the vaccine. Were that interpreted to include trade secrets, it could scare off investment capital, Pooley said.