As the access to Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator marks one year since its launch, the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) welcomes the World Health Organization’s (WHO) call for expressions of interest for a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub and offers its experience and expertise to this initiative. The establishment of such a hub under ACT-A has a vital role to play in addressing two inter-related but longstanding problems that COVID-19 has starkly highlighted – the lack of vaccine capacity to meet a pandemic and the lack of local production in many parts of the world.

What is particularly important about this WHO initiative is that it addresses both short- and long-term needs. It will help meet the pressing demand for COVID-19 vaccines in the near term while in the longer term creating the infrastructure and technical know-how to produce routine vaccines locally once this pandemic subsides, thereby establishing sufficient local capacity to meet the needs of any future pandemic. This approach will lead to the sustainability necessary for longevity.

“During my time at WHO, we learned that using a technology hub to transfer technology to developing countries is feasible because we did it for influenza,” said Marie-Paule Kieny, Chair of the MPP Governance Board and former WHO Assistant Director-General, “but we also learned that you must guarantee sustainability, or you soon lose that new capacity.”

‘’What makes sustainability complex is that it requires significant political commitment,” said Martin Friede, coordinator of the Initiative for Vaccine Research at WHO. “Through the ACT Accelerator, we have galvanised important political commitment. Many manufacturers have already expressed their interest, and we are confident that the technology transfer hub will be a gamechanger.”

Licensing of intellectual property (IP) and technology transfer may be an integral part of the initiative, and MPP is delighted to offer WHO its expertise and experience in these areas. Over many years MPP has learned how to negotiate public health-oriented licences that strike the difficult balance between the rights of IP holders, the requirement for sustainability for licensed manufacturers and the critical needs of public health.

“We are delighted to offer to work with WHO on this technology transfer hub because, irrespective of COVID-19, there is a crying need for the world to move production of critical health technologies into low- and middle-income countries to ensure not just extra capacity, but also the supply security and shorter supply lines that come from a geographically dispersed manufacturing base are in place” said Charles Gore, MPP’s Executive Director. “This could be a perfect example of COVID-19 forcing us to build better for a safer, fairer future.”


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