The government’s patent on a technology used in COVID mRNA vaccines could be an ‘important policy tool’ to boost productivity, campaigners and academics say.
A group of academics and activists is urging the U.S. government to ensure that an upcoming patent for technology at the heart of several coronavirus vaccines is used to increase access to the inoculants worldwide.
A patent is expected to be issued soon for a specific type of molecular engineering developed by U.S. government scientists currently used by five manufacturers of mRNA coronavirus vaccines.
The vaccine division uses synthetic mRNA to stimulate human cells to produce harmless spike proteins found on the coronavirus, stimulating an immune response that protects an individual from true infection. Other types of vaccines usually use the weak or inactivated virus.
In a letter to U.S. health officials, six health advocacy groups and 15 public health academics said the upcoming patent is “an important policy tool that the U.S. government could use to facilitate the scaling of production.” for mRNA vaccines using the technology.
Licensing agreements including the patent could be used to “ensure fast, equitable global access”, said the letter, which was sent to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra , Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Dr. Francis Collins, and Director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Dr. Anthony Fauci.
It comes as rich countries have put more pressure on advocates and the World Health Organization (WHO) to share technology and rights with vaccine manufacturers in poor and middle-aged countries -a-steach.
The U.S., as well as countries like the United Kingdom and Canada, have ordered enough doses to vaccinate their populations more than once, and several countries have struggled to get to doses. Some critics have adopted the apartheid discrimination vaccine.
‘Contribute to saving millions of lives’
The letter submitted on Wednesday specifically highlighted the Moderna vaccine, which was developed by the NIAID and received $ 2.5bn in government funding.
Moderna, along with three of the other five vaccine manufacturers that use government technology, does not currently agree with Washington.
The authors of the letter said that any licensing should include provisions that allow the U.S. to license the manufacture of Moderna vaccines; the need for technology sharing with the WHO to help increase global productivity; and introducing requirements for universal affordable pricing.
“It has the potential to save millions of lives around the world,” they wrote. “It will also help protect public health here at home. Global vaccine with highly effective vaccines, such as mRNA-1273 [the Moderna vaccine], our best defense against the development of immunosuppressive changes of [the coronavirus]. ”
They argued that the U.S. government has reduced patents in this way in the past.
In the past few weeks, the U.S. has also been under increasing pressure to dispense a projected surplus of hundreds of millions of vaccine doses expected in the second half of 2021.
Asked Wednesday how the U.S. balances protecting intellectual property and innovation by moving faster to achieve a world without COVID-19, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said , that the US will “look at all options through the prism of saving lives and how many lives it will save, and we will try to put our resources and efforts into those that we ‘thinking will be most effective’.
She said: “Right now we are focusing on tackling the pandemic that is going on in the United States, with 1,000 people still dying every single day.”