Faced with patent firewalls from Moderna, though the company has reiterated several times that it would not press its patent on the COVID19 vaccine, the World Health Organization (WHO0 has hired Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines as part of a $100 million plan to figure out how to make an mRNA vaccine as close as possible to the one produced by Moderna.
New Delhi: Faced with patent firewalls from Moderna, though the company has reiterated several times that it would not press its patent on the COVID19 vaccine, the World Health Organization (WHO0 has hired Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines as part of a $100 million plan to figure out how to make an mRNA vaccine as close as possible to the one produced by Moderna.
According to media reports, the plan is that WHO and other partners would pay Afrigen to become a teaching center after Afrigen has sorted out all the complicated steps to make Moderna's shot on an industrial scale. "We call it a 'technology transfer hub', " says Martin Friede, the WHO official in charge of this effort. "There are regions on earth — the whole of Africa, for example, the whole of the Middle East — that really suffer because they've got no vaccine production capacity," says Friede.
According to Friede, it makes sense to set up more manufacturers of mRNA vaccines in particular as the technology appears quite a bit effective against COVID19 and that to copy Moderna made by Pfizer BioNTech is a practical thing to do as Moderna has reiterated on several occasions that they will not enforce their intellectual property during the pandemic.
Meanwhile, Afrigen's Managing Director Petro Treblanche says there are still a lot of unknowns as given a look at Moderna's patent, it becomes clear that it is written very carefully and cleverly to not disclose absolutely everything.
Moderna is facing growing pressure to share the vaccine’s know-how. Recently, several US Democratic senators and Congress members released a letter pointing out that Moderna got a massive infusion of U.S. taxpayer funds to help develop its vaccine. At least $1 billion was for the research component alone. These officials claim that the Biden Administration should force the company to divulge its process.
Media reports cited that when asked for comment, Moderna referred NPR to a statement on its website expressing that the company has a commitment to "protect as many people as possible around the globe." It notes that, among other steps to expand vaccine access to people in low-income countries, Moderna has announced plans to build its own plant in Africa. The company has said it will begin searching for the location soon. Pfizer-BioNTech has made a similar announcement.