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Covid19 Vaccines and the Global Good: The Relationship

between Universities, Pharmaceutical Companies and Government. An ICHEM seminar with SRHE and the University of West Indies Office of Global Affairs.

  • 19 Jan 2021, 2.00pm to 19 Jan 2021, 3.30pm GMT
  • This is an online event.
  • This event is free

Universities have been a major source of innovation in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic including the development of COVID-19 vaccines. In the absence of production and distribution capacity, universities have partnered with large pharmaceutical corporations. These partnerships have raised difficult tensions including conflicts in intellectual property rights, licensing and the profit versus the public interest motive. Certain countries and organisations have called for the World Trade Organization to suspend intellectual property rights related to COVID-19 to ensure that all communities and countries, and not only the wealthiest, will have access to the vaccines. The pharmaceutical industry and many high-income countries oppose this move, stating that innovation will be stifled when it is needed most. This seminar analyses the tensions that arise between governments, universities and large corporations in the development, production and distribution of vaccines in the context of a global pandemic. It raises major questions for how universities can proactively manage intellectual property rights; and points to alternative ways to develop these relationships in ways that protect and benefit humanity into the future.

Speaker abstracts

Socialised Risk, Privatised Reward: The Story of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Vaccine and Alternative Models for Equitable Access Duncan Matthews

Rapid Covid-19 vaccine development has been underpinned by unprecedented levels of cooperation between universities and biopharma companies, supported by public funding from governments and not-for-profit organisations such as the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). The decision of Oxford University to grant an exclusive licence to AstraZeneca for the manufacture and distribution of the AZD1222 vaccine worldwide has proved controversial and raises unanswered questions about equitable access, pricing and transparency. As public scrutiny of Covid-19 vaccines comes ever more sharply into focus, greater attention is being paid to the implications of intellectual property ownership, licensing agreements and the generation of profits and rewards. This presentation examines how public money invested in university-generated vaccine development can balance the exploitation of intellectual property rights with proper public scrutiny and equitable access.

Preserving the Public Interest in Public Private Partnerships for Health Roya Ghafele

To bring potentially lifesaving technology to market, universities need to enter partnerships with corporations. Such partnerships are commonly known as public-private partnerships for health and allow a university to combine its academic know-how with the commercial capabilities of a pharmaceutical company. These partnerships need to be guided by the preservation of the public interest. A university has a responsibility to protect the public interest, particularly if its research is undertaken with public support. To assure the preservation of the public interest, it is important that patents are adequately addressed in technology transfer agreements. This implies that on the one hand contracts contain public interest clauses and on the other hand that the licensing rate is commensurate with the need to preserve the public interest. In that respect valuing IP from a public interest perspective can be an important toolkit. As the Covid 19 pandemic spreads globally, universities around the world are encouraged to adequately assure the preservation of the public interest when transferring potentially lifesaving technology. Such an approach permits both the university and the company to adjust their respective strategies from the outset. Read more here.


Respondent : Professor Ammon Salter (University of Bath), Chair: Professor Rajani Naidoo (University of Bath and co-ordinator SRHE SW Network) & Moderator: Professor Jurgen Enders (University of Bath)

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