When leaders of some of the world’s largest economies gather for the 46th G7 Summit this September, the focus will be on the world’s most pressing challenge – the COVID-19 pandemic. They will have an opportunity to unite the world around practical steps governments can take now to drive development of innovative treatments and vaccines and get approved products quickly to people everywhere who need them.
There are now more than 400 potential coronavirus treatments and vaccines with more than 1,020 clinical trials under way. This amazing progress in just a matter of months has been driven by thousands of innovators in the G7 countries and made possible by strong intellectual property (IP) protections and collaboration between the public and private sectors.
Innovators were able to move quickly because of products, knowledge and research capacity developed over many years that were fueled and protected by IP rights. For example, biopharmaceutical companies have invested billions of dollars in technologies that have dramatically shortened the time it takes to decode viruses like COVID-19 and, thus, develop potential vaccines.
IP has provided a strong foundation for all sectors of society to collaborate in fighting COVID-19. The biopharmaceutical industry has been a strong partner with government, academic and non-governmental organizations – working together on clinical studies, advancing treatment and vaccine development, and committing that future COVID-19 treatments and vaccines will be affordable and available for patients.
At the same time, biopharmaceutical companies have made extraordinary commitments to work with governments and insurers to ensure that when new treatments and vaccines are approved they will be available and affordable for patients.
The G7 can support innovators by strengthening policies that incentivize the development, manufacturing and trade of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments and reject proposals to undermine the very IP system that will deliver much-needed solutions.
Given these unprecedented efforts, it’s surprising that there have been new calls to undermine the IP ecosystem that has allowed for this rapid progress. These harmful policies include stripping IP rights from innovators producing COVID-19 solutions outright or creating new global mechanisms to patent licensing that is already well managed between private parties.
While some of these initiatives are well intentioned, they will not bring the world closer to new treatments and vaccines for COVID-19.
Instead, G7 leaders should promote effective IP protection and enforcement and work with innovators to address potential barriers that could stand in the way of speedy access to coronavirus treatments and vaccines. For example,, steps need to be taken today to tackle supply chain barriers, lessen regulatory approval delays, and remove taxes and tariffs on medicines that increase costs to patients.
Innovators have stepped up to find solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic and remain a partner to all in this critical fight. The G7 can support them by strengthening policies that incentivize the development, manufacture and trade of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments and reject any proposals that undermine the very IP system poised to help deliver much-needed solutions to coronavirus.