WHA 2020

Virtual World Health Assembly: A Moment to Champion Innovation

The World Health Assembly (WHA) meeting looked a little different this year in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Global officials gathered virtually during a meeting where the pandemic was the major theme.

Global health leaders broadly supported the urgent work underway to discover new treatments and vaccines for COVID-19. It was clear that the work being done to address the COVID-19 pandemic underscores the true power of innovation and the need to promote a strong intellectual property ecosystem to fuel continued invention. IP protections have aided the swift response to COVID-19 by facilitating the collaborations and partnerships needed to fight back against the virus and help patients worldwide.

As world leaders focus on COVID-19 this week, three themes are key:

  • Innovation: During the pandemic we urgently need new tools to diagnose and treat COVID-19. All stakeholders should continue to support IP protections that enable research and development into new treatments, vaccines and other solutions across the health sector.
  • Partnership: Public-private partnerships remain a key aspect to advance solutions to pressing challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic. Fighting this virus will only happen if all parts of society work together to find solutions. Initiatives that exclude vital private sector stakeholders will not succeed.
  • Access: The global biopharmaceutical industry has committed to work with governments to ensure that future COVID-19 treatments and vaccines will be available and affordable for patients. To ensure the fastest distribution of new products, countries should start planning to lower barriers standing in the way – like regulatory hurdles, inadequate financing, poor infrastructure, and weak supply chains.

As WHA delegates convene virtually this week, they have the opportunity to set a tone and framework that enables countries to build on the momentum from innovators to date.

These themes were woven into a resolution adopted at the World Health Assembly that tackled all aspects of the global response to COVID-19. That resolution repeatedly emphasized the need for all parts of society, including the private sector, to collaborating in ending the pandemic. It even called for measures to ensure access to new health technologies to be consistent with the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), which requires countries to have certain minimum standards to protect IP.

Drawing on the spirit of resolve showing at the World Health Assembly this year, countries should take steps to protect the vital IP rights needed to fight COVID-19 today and cure other diseases in the future.

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