Australia & developed nations must share Covid technologies with world

Australia and other national governments should follow the lead of the United States and share their intellectual property on COVID-19 technology through the World Health Organisation’s COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP), says QUT IP law expert Professor Matthew Rimmer.

  • US’s bold move to release publicly funded covid IP with the world
  • Australia’s universities, medical research institutes and public research bodies could participate
  • Developed countries resisting COVID-19 technologies patent waiver
  • Assisting developing countries to make their own health tools would benefit everyone

Professor Rimmer said President Biden had announced that the US would share critical COVID-19 technologies, owned by the US Government, including the stabilized spike protein that is used in many COVID-19 vaccines.

The announcement was made at the Global COVID-19 Summit on the weekend.

“The next Australian Government should consider participating in C-TAP and sharing its own technology and knowledge in respect of vaccines, diagnostics, and treatments to help tackle the Covid crisis,” Professor Rimmer said.

“Australian researchers at universities, medical research institutes, and public research bodies like CSIRO could have an opportunity to share the benefits of their research with the rest of the world.

“The approach of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) in sharing IP could be followed by other funding agencies around the world.

“The announcement should also encourage universities and public sector research organisations to engage in humanitarian licensing during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Professor Rimmer said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the Summit attendees that empowering lower-income countries to manufacture their own health tools would ensure a healthier future for everyone.

“C-TAP arose out of a collaboration between Costa Rica and WHO but C-TAP’s operation has been limited and curtailed by key IP owners’ refusal to participate so the US Government’s sharing of its publicly-funded IP will breathe new life into C-TAP,” Professor Rimmer said.

Professor Rimmer said another ongoing initiative to share Covid technology with developing countries is the TRIPS (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) Waiver in the World Trade Organisation.

“The Summit also heard a renewed call by South Africa for the adoption of a TRIPS Waiver by the WTO to suspend certain provisions of the TRIPS Agreement during the COVID-19 crisis.

Professor Matthew Rimmer

“South African’s President Ramaphosa advocated for the waiver to cover patents on not only Covid vaccines but also therapeutics and diagnostics, calling on the global community to ‘ensure solidarity and equity underpin the next phase of the management of the pandemic’.

“Unfortunately, the debate over the TRIPS Waiver has been deadlocked and stonewalled by developed countries.

“South Africa and India have received backing for a broad TRIPS Waiver from many developing countries and least developed countries.

“The Biden Administration has supported a TRIPS Waiver for vaccines (which has been supported by nations like Australia, New Zealand, and Norway). However, the European Union, the United Kingdom, and Switzerland have opposed a TRIPS Waiver.

“The US, EU, South Africa and India have been negotiating a compromise to the TRIPS Waiver, called the Quad Outcome Document, which is very limited in scope and has been endorsed only by the European Union.

“Predictably, vaccine developers, pharmaceutical companies, and the biotechnology industry have opposed various variants of the TRIPS Waiver, as well as the new Quad Outcome Document.”

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