US health officials plan to share Covid technology with other nations

Top federal health officials said on Thursday they intended to start offering low- and middle-income countries access to technology developed by government scientists that could be used to prevent or treat Covid. -19. They did not specify which technologies might be included, but hinted that the policy could eventually apply to the Moderna vaccine if the Biden administration wins a patent dispute with the company.

President Biden’s Health Secretary Xavier Becerra and his top coronavirus medical adviser, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, made the comments to reporters after a meeting with health ministers from around the world. They come as Mr Biden prepares to convene his second global summit on Covid-19, due in the coming weeks.

Dr Fauci said the National Institutes of Health has already “offered to license several NIH-owned technologies” to the World Health Organization’s Covid-19 Technology Access Pool, known as C -TAP, which the health organization describes as a “global one-stop shop” for drug developers to share their intellectual property. The technologies would then be made available to the Medicines Patent Pool, a public health organization supported by the United Nations that works to improve access to medicines in poor and middle-income countries.

Mr Biden has come under intense pressure from activists and WHO officials to do more to get the pharmaceutical industry to share its technology with the world. The new policy, officials say, will allow poor countries to manufacture cheap vaccines and treatments that are developed in the United States.

But there’s a big catch: Dr. Fauci wouldn’t be specific about which technologies will be allowed, and couldn’t say whether Moderna’s powerful coronavirus vaccine — developed in partnership with NIH scientists — would be among them, said he declared.

Indeed, society and government are locked in a bitter dispute over who deserves credit for inventing the core component of the vaccine, which grew out of a four-year collaboration between Moderna and the NIH, the research agency government biomedical. The NIH has been in talks with Moderna for more than a year to try to resolve the disagreement, which has broad implications for the long-term distribution of the vaccine and billions of dollars in future profits.

Dr. Fauci said negotiations are ongoing, but he and Mr. Becerra have strongly suggested that if the government wins this dispute and obtains ownership of the crucial patent, it would work to include Moderna technology in its offers.

“President Biden has made it very clear that he wants to assert all of his authorities to ensure that we use everything at our disposal” to get the drugs to those who need them, Becerra said. , adding that “it shouldn’t come as a surprise”. that “we will push the limits where the law allows us to do so”.

Dr Fauci said: ‘I would just like to repeat, in principle – and you can take what you want from this – that in principle we have offered to license NIH-owned technologies to C-TAP for the purposes of Medicines Patents Pool. So whatever we can do, we will do.

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