Giving away IP protections could harm NY companies

By Lev Ginsburg | June 15, 2022


Look no further than the grocery store or pharmacy shelves today to realize the impact that poor management of supply chains and life critical products can have on the market and the public health.

Right now, the focus is on infant formula, but if a global proposal on the table at a meeting of the World Trade Organization in Geneva this week were to ultimately be approved, another product—vaccines—could face a similar fate. The Biden administration has mistakenly given approval to World Health Organization (WHO) implementing a waiver on the TRIPs agreement—Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights– that would force pharmaceutical companies who developed the COVID vaccines to waive their intellectual property rights and hand the vaccine formulas over to foreign countries.

While the motivation behind this move is noble, getting more COVID vaccines for countries that need them, the fact of the matter is this plan is outdated and simply not in line with current realities of COVID vaccine distribution.

In October of 2020, when the world was still very much shut down due to COVID, South Africa and India hatched this proposal with the WHO. That was months before the first vaccines were approved and rolling off production lines.  We all remember the long lines, wait times, and backed up booking systems to get a vaccine appointment.  Today, things are much different.

In America and beyond, COVID vaccines are readily available—too much so in some places.

Vaccine manufacturers have consistently worked with governments around the world to get vaccines to every corner of the earth.  In places like Africa, the problem with getting their population vaccinated isn’t the availability of vaccines, it’s the lack of infrastructure for distribution and vaccine hesitancy.  In fact the African continent’s CDC equivalent  asked companies to stop shipping vaccines until they could get systems in place to deal with the backlog.

Additionally, while the science that has gotten COVID vaccines to the public has grabbed headlines, there are so many more steps and resources between the lab and vaccine administration that must be executed precisely and involving complex supply and distribution chains to successfully roll out vaccines on a worldwide scale.

We know the pandemic will only come to an end when a majority of the world is vaccinated, and that is a priority.  But ensuring that biotech companies have the resources to be prepared for the next pandemic by funding research and development of the next generation of vaccine and disease treatment is also critically important.

TRIPs will stand to damage the companies and investors who got us out from under the grip of the pandemic, and potentially squash hopes of future medical innovation—beyond the vaccine space.  Many of these companies and investors call New York home.

Sending a message to the world that the United States doesn’t value and protect the investment we make into science and research is a terrible mistake.   Some of our adversaries on the global stage would be all too pleased to have our science as they try and take over the leadership of global research and development—a coveted spot that the U.S. now holds.

The Biden administration should immediately walk back their support of the TRIPs waiver plan and protect the science, innovation and production of critical vaccines and medications to deliver hope of squashing any future global public health crisis.

Lev Ginsburg, Esq.

Senior Director of Government Affairs

The Business Council of New York State, Inc.