WHA70: Statement of Knowledge Ecology International on Research and development for potentially epidemic diseases

On Wednesday, 24 May 2017, Knowledge Ecology International delivered its maiden statement to the World Health Assembly on the topic of research and development for potentially epidemic diseases. The intervention was read by Diane Singhroy, PhD.

Seventieth World Health Assembly (A70/1)
Agenda Item: 12.1.3 Research and development for potentially epidemic diseases

As this is the first time Knowledge Ecology International (KEI) is delivering an intervention at the World Health Assembly, we thank you for giving us the floor to speak on the R&D Blueprint for potentially epidemic diseases.

Our comment concerns a vaccine for the Zika virus. The United States Army and other U.S. government agencies have a candidate inactivated vaccine, for which the U.S. has filed patent applications. On December 9, 2016, the Army published a notice asking for comments on a proposed license of the patents on an exclusive basis to Sanofi-Pasteur. The Army twice extended the comment period, until March 10, 2017. KEI and several health groups have objected to the license, and asked that at a minimum, there be obligations to make the vaccine affordable, and available at reasonable prices.

The US government invented the vaccine, is conducting the Phase 1 trial itself, and will give the Sanofi $43 million to pay for a Phase 2 trial and if needed, another $130 million for a Phase 3 trial.

To our knowledge, the WHO has NEVER communicated to the U.S. Army that it has an interest in having a license that it could use to obtain competitive supplies of the vaccine at low prices, or made any other suggestion as regards the price.

If the Army gives an exclusive license for the Zika vaccine, only one company will control access, and it can set any price it wants. This runs counter to the need to ensure universal access to the vaccine.

There is nothing in the blueprint to prevent this from happening. There should be.

The blueprint should address the licensing of patents created from public funding, transparency of R&D costs, and pricing.