The US is planning to roll out a policy to offer the World Health Organization (WHO) access to technology that can be used by low and middle-income nations to develop treatment for Covid-19, top federal health officials have said. While the officials, which include President Joe Biden’s health secretary Xavier Becerra, and his top medical adviser for Covid Dr. Anthony S. Fauci did not specify the technologies that might be included, but hinted that the policy could eventually apply to the Moderna vaccine, the New York Times reported.
However, it depends only if the Biden administration wins a patent dispute with the drugmaker. Biden has been under intense pressure from activists and WHO officials to do more to press the pharmaceutical industry to share its technology with the world, the report said. The new policy, officials said, will enable poor nations to manufacture inexpensive vaccines and therapeutics that are developed in the US.
According to Fauci, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) has already “offered to license several NIH-owned technologies” to the WHO’s Covid-19 Technology Access Pool, known as C-TAP, which the health organisation describes as a “global one-stop shop” for drug developers to share their intellectual property. The technologies would then be made available to the Medicines Patent Pool, a UN backed public health organisation that works to increase access to medicines in poor and middle-income nations. But, Fauci did not specify which technologies will be licensed or whether Moderna’s powerful Covid vaccine – developed in partnership with NIH scientists – would be among them.
Moderna is undergoing a patent war with the US government over who deserves credit for inventing the central component of the vaccine, which grew out of a four-year collaboration between the US drugmaker and the NIH. Fauci said the negotiations are ongoing, but both he and Becerra strongly suggested that if the government wins that dispute and gains ownership of the crucial patent, it would work to include the Moderna technology in its offerings, the report said. “President Biden has made it very clear that he wishes to assert all his authorities to make sure that we use everything at our disposal” to make medicines available to those who need them, Becerra was quoted as saying.He added that “it should be no surprise” that “we’re going to push the envelope where the law allows us.”