2021-09-22 16:59:19 Pressure Grows on U.S. Companies to Share Covid Vaccine Technology
Pressure Grows on U.S. Companies to Share Covid Vaccine Technology
“We keep hearing, ‘The vaccines are coming, the vaccines are coming,’ but three million people have died since the Pfizer vaccine was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration,” said Zain Rizvi, an expert on access to medicines with the advocacy group Public Citizen.
Moderna and Pfizer have a direct financial interest in keeping their technology to themselves and maintaining a competitive advantage not only in the sale of Covid vaccines, which are expected to bring in more than $53 billion this year, but also in other potentially lucrative mRNA vaccines in development, such as one for cancer, H.I.V., and malaria, he said, adding, “They don’t want to stand a chance.”
The coalition of developing-country drugmakers drafting an appeal to Mr. Biden intends to ask the US government to put pressure on companies for several things, including a license for intellectual property, a license for the technology used in vaccine manufacturing, the provision of items such as cell lines, and assistance in acquiring vital but scarce equipment.
Moderna would be compensated with a licensing fee, calculated as a percentage of each dose sold, in exchange for sharing its process.
Even without Moderna’s cooperation, the World Health Organization says its South African tech transfer hub will focus on replicating the Moderna formula as closely as possible as the gold standard against which to compare candidates from other biotechnology companies, and then teaching any manufacturer who wants to make it how to do so at scale.
“If we had Moderna or BioNTech on board, we could get to an approved vaccine in 18 months, but without them, we have to go through full development — so 36 months if everything goes perfectly, but it could be longer,” said Dr. Friede, who heads the World Health Organization’s Initiative for Vaccine Research.
Pfizer and Moderna are at a crossroads in the process, he says, and must decide what role they want to play. “I’ve made many successful vaccines; I have other people with me who have made successful vaccines,” he explained. “What we’re saying is, ‘We’re going to do this.'” So you can either come in and try to maintain some control by producing vaccines locally, or we’ll do it without you. Then you’ve lost control.'”
Rebecca Robbins helped with reporting.