It’s all about IP, with the World Health Organization (WHO) suggesting more IP waivers in future pandemics and BIO submitting comments to USTR on global threats to IP. Plus, we recap what was said at yesterday’s Farm Bill hearing about Mexico’s corn ban. (734 words, 3 minutes, 40 seconds)
Draft WHO pandemic treaty suggests future IP waivers
The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests waiving intellectual property rights during the next pandemic in the initial draft of its global pandemic preparedness treaty, released to the press yesterday.
What’s this treaty? In 2021, WHO member countries created an International Negotiating Body to develop a treaty to guide a coordinated global response to pandemics. The final version would be legally binding for signatories.
What’s in the draft? One key provision would make wealthier countries set aside 20% of any vaccines or treatments developed to share with poorer countries, Reuters says. It would also require concessions from drug makers who receive government support, Health Policy Watch says.
What does it say about IP? In a pandemic, countries should “support time-bound waivers of intellectual property rights that can accelerate or scale up manufacturing of pandemic-related products” and should “apply the full use of the flexibilities provided in the TRIPS Agreement,” which can mean IP waivers.
BIO opposes IP waivers—because waivers eliminate incentives to innovate. "Robust IP protections enable the innovations that are the foundation of the dynamism in the U.S. biotech sector," says BIO Interim CEO Rachel King. "To prepare for future pandemics, global leaders should focus on strengthening these protections worldwide to encourage more--not less-- biotech innovation around the world to combat future threats to human health."
Others agree: “The ‘accord’ should build on the private sector’s strengths for innovative R&D, quick manufacturing scaling up and distribution, which is built on a robust intellectual property system,” Thomas Cueni, director general of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations, told Reuters.
What happens next? The draft is expected to be changed. Negotiations will begin Feb. 27 and continue into 2024, according to Reuters.
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BIO recommends 11 countries for USTR's IP watchlist
The intellectual property protections that enabled record-setting development of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments require rigorous federal protection, says BIO in its 41-page contribution to the annual U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) report on IP.
USTR’s “Special 301” report details threats to IP from other countries, identifying trade challenges that must be resolved to “maintain enabling environments for innovation” worldwide.
BIO outlined several challenges to IP:
- Compulsory licenses that effectively eliminate patents in some countries.
- Forced localization of R&D, manufacturing, or other operations in exchange for selling drugs in a country.
- Disclosure of confidential commercial data submitted to regulatory authorities.
- Obstacles to obtaining patents.
- Legal difficulty in enforcing patents.
BIO recommends 11 countries for USTR’s “Priority Watch List”: Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, and South Korea.
Why it matters: Protection of IP is essential to “the innovative capacity of the bioscience sector to address global challenges from human health, to food production and security, to clean energy and sustainability,” BIO explains.
That means: “A robust global IP system is core to this innovation and economic growth and is consistent with a worker-centric U.S. trade policy that prioritizes American workers and jobs,” says BIO.
Mexico corn ban crops up at Farm Bill hearing
Mexico’s planned ban on biotech corn came up during yesterday’s Farm Bill hearing in the U.S. Senate—here’s what was said.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA): “When it comes to agricultural trade, the concern I hear most from Iowans is access to Mexico’s corn market.”
Sen. Deb Fisher (R-NE): “I did appreciate your remarks to Sen. Grassley earlier that there is no negotiating on Mexico’s ban on biotech corn, because the science is clear on that.”
Sen. John Thune (R-SD): “I’m concerned about this administration’s lack of attention to expanding market access for U.S. agricultural products. I hope your and USTR Ag Chief Negotiator McKalip are turning points when it comes to ag trade.”
The response: U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) Undersecretary Alexis Taylor said her office appreciates the importance of trade with Mexico, “but much broader than that, fundamentally, our trading system, globally but also within the [U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement], is built on science-based policies.”
The next steps: Expect a year full of Farm Bill hearings—and many opportunities to discuss this important issue.
Read more and watch a clip of the hearing at Bio.News.
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President Biden’s Thursday: Meeting with King Abdullah of Jordan to discuss Mideast tensions, per Axios, followed by a meeting with members of the Congressional Black Caucus, where police reform will be on the agenda, per USA Today.
What’s Happening on Capitol Hill: The full House is set to vote on removing Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) from the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing, “Evaluating U.S.-China policy in the era of strategic competition.”