Top life science companies, Gates Foundation pledge to expand access to Covid diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccine

| Updated on: Sep 30, 2020
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Avoid addressing issues such as drug patents

More than a dozen top life sciences companies have come together along with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and committed to ensuring global access to diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines developed to tackle the novel coronavirus.

“Covid-19’s existence anywhere poses a threat to communities everywhere. The health, social and economic impacts can only be addressed through the collective actions of stakeholders across private, public and philanthropic sectors in partnership with civil society,” the heads of 16 companies and Gates and wife Melinda said in a joint statement on Wednesday.

Those signing up included AstraZeneca, Bayer, bioMérieux, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol Myers Squibb, Eisai, Eli Lilly, Gilead, GSK, Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co (known as MSD outside the US and Canada), Merck , KGaA (Darmstadt, Germany), Novartis, Pfizer, Roche and Sanofi.

Earlier this year, these companies had pledged to fight against Covid-19 and collectively launched an expansive and ambitious pandemic R&D response. “Creating these innovations is not enough, however. Through partnerships with other stakeholders we are committed to ensuring global access to diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines that will help accelerate the end of the pandemic,” the note said.

And to get there, the companies said they would develop innovations for patients worldwide.

They would continue to advance research and development on Covid-19 diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines that are suitable to meet the needs of populations around the world, they said. “To do so, we will work to expand clinical trials to account for diverse representation including lower-income settings and endeavour to address the specific product characteristics needed for use in lower-income settings even after new innovations are brought forward,” the note said.

Scaling up

Further, they committed to scaling up manufacturing at “unprecedented speed” to get products across the world, despite income levels. Measures were assured to enable affordability for lower income countries and distribution of these products, including through COVAX — the vaccines effort supported by the World Health Organization. Pointing to maintaining public confidence in the innovations, they said, safety of individuals who received these products would be a priority.

While the pledge is being seen as unprecedented, it does not address thorny issues on whether these products would be patented, for instance, say industry-watchers.

Published on September 30, 2020

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