WHO, Costa Rica & Chile Announce Official Launch Of COVID-19 Intellectual Property Pool
Carlos Alvarado Quesada announces the launch of a COVID-19 intellectual property pool

Costa Rica and the World Health Organization today announced that a voluntary intellectual property pool for COVID-19 related technologies will be officially launched on May 29, following the World Health Assembly on May 18 to 19.

The official launch comes more than two months after the Costa Rican president and health minister first published an open letter to WHO calling on the agency to establish a COVID-19 intellectual property pool in order to promote access to new and existing technologies.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

“At the beginning of the pandemic, President Alvarado asked me to set up a health technology repository for vaccines, medicines, diagnostics and any other tool that may work against COVID-19,” said WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus in a prepared statement Friday. “WHO has accepted this visionary proposal from his excellency President Alvarado and will, in the next few weeks, launch a platform for open, collaborative sharing of knowledge, data and intellectual property on existing and new health tools to combat COVID-19.”

When pressed about whether US President Donald Trump would be likely to support the initiative, Dr Tedros said, “I mean, I cannot answer that question, I think you better ask the president.”  

The United States had just two days ago attempted to disassociate itself from language referring to countries rights to override patent protections during global emergencies in a European Union draft resolution to be discussed next week. In a modest victory for access advocates, the US objections were overridden.

Dr Mariangela Simao

Chile has joined on to support the Costa-Rica initiative, but other Member States are still finalizing negotiations with Costa Rica. However, “Member States from all [WHO] regions” are expected to sign on to support the initiative by the official launch date on 29 May, said WHO assistant director-general for Access to Medicines, Vaccines and Pharmaceuticals Dr Mariangela Simao, in response to a query from Health Policy Watch.

This is a call for Member States. It’s a call also for academia, for the private sector and companies, for research institutions, and for cooperation agencies, all around the world,”  said Costa Rica President Carlos Alvarado Quesada. “We want to see these innovations and technologies as global public goods to protect humanity against this threat.”

“We’re also calling for this to be a repository created on a voluntary basis, because now we need solidarity,” added Alvarado Quesada.

Sebastián Piñera

“We recognize that WHO is the main mechanism for health matters and… health policy. Pandemics affect all people, whatever their age, gender or race, and particularly have a disproportionate effect in developing countries,” said a Chilean delegate, reading an official statement from Chile’s President Sebastián Piñera. “And that’s why we are very glad to join Costa Rica’s initiative.”

The pool will be built off of the Medicines Patent Pool, an existing UN mechanism funded by Unitaid that pools voluntarily released patents for essential medicines, and then licenses the patents to generics manufacturers. Both the MPP and Unitaid’s Boards have released open letters supporting the Costa Rica initiative, endorsing a temporary expansion of MPP’s mandate to include all COVID-19 related vaccines, diagnostics, drugs, and other technologies.

Image Credits: Government of Chile.