Although the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over, attention is now turning to the question of how the world can be better prepared to respond to future pandemics. At the centre of concerns is the question of intellectual property (IP), of diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines. While governments demanded and pumped huge resources into supporting innovations in relation to COVID-19, pharmaceutical companies have largely been able to retain IP in their discoveries, and achieve very substantial profits, even when the bulk of funding has come from governments. Although it hard to view the current situation as equitable, entrenched interests have opposed significant change, and in any case there is no consensus on what changes to IP would lead to a future that is both equitable and sustaining with regard to pandemic preparedness and response.
A number of innovative IP solutions for stronger global pandemic response have been proposed. They range from voluntary measures and expanded use of recognised TRIPS flexibilities to a temporary waiver of TRIPS intellectual property protections at the WTO or even to an entirely new incentive/access framework for pandemic diseases. As the world comes together to create a new treaty or instrument for better pandemic preparation and response, we will explore proposals for more flexible management of IP.
The event is co-organised by Professor Jonathan Wolff, the Global Health Impact Project, and the Independent Research Group for Global Health Justice.