Finding Treatments and Vaccines for COVID-19: A Race Run Better Together

This blog post is the first of the Innovation + Collaboration series, which examines the role of collaboration in driving solutions to address the COVID-19 pandemic. This inaugural post takes a closer look at collaborative efforts focused on the research and development of novel medicines that have the potential to treat or prevent COVID-19.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the entire world to contend with a global health crisis that is unlike anything we’ve seen. In response to this unprecedented outbreak, there has been a rise of something else unprecedented: large-scale, innovative cross-sector and cross-industry collaborations.

Through these partnerships, stakeholders are working to discover and develop treatments and vaccines for the coronavirus. Undertaking this type of endeavor is as risky, time consuming and resource intensive. It is also urgently needed. Creating solutions at speeds previously unimaginable would not be possible without comprehensive, cross-sector collaboration and robust intellectual property (IP) systems and protections.

IP ensures that innovators, who work tirelessly to bring new and potentially life-saving products and process to market, are adequately incentivized and rewarded, and it protects innovation. Namely, innovators are able to share their novel ideas and products without the fear of their work being stolen or copied. These protections make vital COVID-19 partnerships between major public and private sector players possible.

Creating solutions at previously unimaginable speeds, wouldn’t be possible without comprehensive, cross-sector collaborations, which rely on robust intellectual property systems and protections in place.

We are already seeing a range of promising advances, as stakeholders from across the world coalesce around a shared goal of finding new, effective ways to treat and prevent COVID-19. Some of these key partnerships include:

  • A collaborative initiative between the Gates Foundation, Wellcome, Mastercard and the biopharmaceutical industry. The partnership, known as the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator (CTA) Program, is backed by $125 million in funding and aims to accelerate the discovery of a vaccine that effectively prevents the spread of COVID-19.
  • Under the Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV) partnership, the United States’ National Institutes of Health has convened more than a dozen leading biopharmaceutical companies, the Health and Human Services Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency to develop an international, coordinated response to COVID-19 and a strategy for accelerated vaccine development.
  • Abbvie, Harbour BioMed, Utrecht University and Erasmus Medical Center have entered a collaboration focused on developing a novel “fully human, neutralizing monoclonal antibody therapy” that has the potential to both prevent and treat COVID-19. 
  • Ten plasma companies, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), Microsoft and Uber Health have joined forces under the COVig-19 Plasma Alliance. The cross-industry partnership is working to develop what is known as a hyperimmune globulin treatment, which harnesses plasma from patients who have recovered from COVID-19.

These are only a few examples of the cross-industry and cross-sector partnerships being formed in a tireless global effort to discover and develop effective solutions to address COVID-19. Without the IP protections that facilitate these sorts of collaborative efforts, the already risky road to vaccines and treatments would be much more difficult to navigate, limiting the availability of life-saving innovation that could change the trajectory of global health. It’s essential that these partnerships continue to be supported through the sustained protection of strong IP systems.


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