Although the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over, attention is now turning to the question of how the world can be better prepared to respond to future pandemics. At the centre of concerns is the question of intellectual property (IP), of diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines. While governments demanded and pumped huge resources into supporting innovations in relation to COVID-19, pharmaceutical companies have largely been able to retain IP in their discoveries, and achieve very substantial profits, even when the bulk of funding has come from governments. Although it hard to view the current situation as equitable, entrenched interests have opposed significant change, and in any case there is no consensus on what changes to IP would lead to a future that is both equitable and sustaining with regard to pandemic preparedness and response.
A number of innovative IP solutions for stronger global pandemic response have been proposed. They range from voluntary measures and expanded use of recognised TRIPS flexibilities to a temporary waiver of TRIPS intellectual property protections at the WTO or even to an entirely new incentive/access framework for pandemic diseases. As the world comes together to create a new treaty or instrument for better pandemic preparation and response, we will explore proposals for more flexible management of IP.
The event is co-organised by Professor Jonathan Wolff, the Global Health Impact Project, and the Independent Research Group for Global Health Justice.
Welcome and introduction
Nicole Hassoun is Professor of Philosophy at Binghamton University. She has held visiting positions at Cornell and Stanford Universities, the United Nations' World Institute for Development Economics Research in Helsinki, the Center for Poverty Research in Salzburg, The Franco-Swedish Program in Philosophy and Economics in Paris and the Center for Advanced Studies in Frankfurt. She has published about a hundred papers in journals like the American Philosophical Quarterly, Journal of Development Economics, Tropical Medicine and International Health, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, The European Journal of Philosophy, and Philosophy and Economics. Her first book Globalization and Global Justice: Shrinking Distance, Expanding Obligations was published with Cambridge University Press in 2012 and her second book Global Health Impact: Extending Access on Essential Medicines for the Poor appeared with Oxford University Press in 2020.
Professor Hassoun also heads the Global Health Impact project intended to extend access to medicines to the global poor (Global Health Impact). The project launched at the World Health Organization in January 2015 and aims to assist policymakers in setting targets for and evaluating efforts to increase access to essential medicines.
Moderator: Brook K. Baker is Professor of Law, Northeastern University, where he teaches disability discrimination law, negotiations and a new course on human rights, intellectual property, and access to medicines. He taught and consulted in South African law schools and law school clinics between 1997-2012. Professor Baker is an honorary research fellow at the University of KwaZulu Natal in Durban, South Africa.
Professor Baker is also a senior policy analyst for Health GAP (Global Access Project) and is actively engaged in campaigns for universal access to treatment, prevention, and care for people living with HIV/AIDS, especially expanded and improved medical treatment. More recently he has been working on accelerating research on and equitable global access to vaccines, medicines, and diagnostics to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. He has written and consulted extensively on intellectual property rights, trade, investor-state dispute settlement, access to medicines, and medicines regulatory policy, including with the African Union, NEPAD, South Africa, Uganda, ASEAN, Thailand, Indonesia, Brazil, Venezuela, CARICOM, UK DfID, the World Health Organization, the Millennium Development Goals Project, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Open Society Institute, UNAIDS, UNDP, Unitaid, the Medicines Patent Pool, the Global Commission on HIV and the Law and others. He has served as a key, alternative board member and board member of the NGO delegation to Unitaid, which acts to improve market dynamics and early market entry of medicines and diagnostics needed to address HIV/AIDS, TB, Hepatitis C and malaria. He presently is a civil society representative to the Therapeutics Pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Acclerator.
Professor Baker also works on policy issues concerning the Global Fund and the US PEPFAR Program, and how those priority disease initiatives might contribute more broadly to improving health care delivery in developing countries. Finally, he analyses resource needs for global health, innovative financing mechanisms and IMF macroeconomic policies that restrict increased government and donor spending on health and education in developing countries.
Esteban Burrone is the Head of Policy of the Medicines Patent Pool, an institution he contributed to setting up in 2010 to promote access to affordable and appropriate medicines in developing countries, through the licensing of key patents. As Head of Policy, Esteban works on partnership with a large number of organisations and stakeholders, including governments, intergovernmental organisations and civil society organisations. He also oversees the development of MedsPaL, the MPP’s patents and licences database.
Sangeeta Shashikant is a legal and policy advisor for Third World Network, a research and advocacy organization. She obtained her Masters in Laws from the University College London in 2003 and her Bachelors in Laws, from the University of Malaya in 1999. She was elected as the President of the Board of Association for Plant Breeding for the Benefit of Society (APBREBES) in 2013 till to-date. She also writes for the South-North Development Monitor (SUNS).
Sangeeta Shashikant has extensive experience in research and advocacy on intellectual property and public policy matters. She has authored and contributed towards several publications including on Farmers’ Rights and plant variety protection such as
- International Contradictions on Farmers’ Rights: the interrelations between the international treaty, its Article 9 on Farmers’ rights and Relevant Instruments of UPOV and WIPO, Third World Network and Berne Declaration, 2015
- Plant Variety Protection in Developing Countries: A Tool for Designing a Sui Generis Plant Variety Protection System: An Alternative to UPOV 1991, APBREBES, 2015
- Farmers’ Right to Participate in Decision-making – implementing Article 9.2 (c) of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, Working Paper, APBREBES, September 2016
Ellen t’Hoen, LLM PhD, is a lawyer and public health advocate with over 30 years of experience working on pharmaceutical and intellectual property policies.
From 1999 until 2009 she was the director of policy for Médecins sans Frontières’ Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines. In 2009 she joined UNITAID in Geneva to set up the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) She was the MPP’s first executive director until 2012. In 2005, 2006, 2010 and 2011 she was listed as one of the 50 most influential people in intellectual property by the journal Managing Intellectual Property. She has worked as an advisor to a number of governments, NGOs and international organisations. She is currently a researcher at the University Medical Centre at the University of Groningen, The Netherlands.
In 2020, she was appointed Officer of the Order of Oranje-Nassau, a royal award given by the King for her international work on equitable access to affordable medicines.
She has published widely on medicines law and policy issues. Her latest book “Private Patents and Public Health: Changing intellectual property rules for public health” was published July 2016.
She has a Master of Laws from the University of Amsterdam and a PhD from the University of Groningen.
Fatima Hassan is a human rights lawyer and social justice activist and the founder of the Health Justice Initiative. She is the former Executive Director of the Open Society Foundation for South Africa (OSF-SA), heading the Foundation for 6 years (mid-2013 – mid-2019). She has dedicated her professional life to defending and promoting human rights in South Africa, especially in the field of HIV/AIDS where she worked for the AIDS Law Project and also acted for the Treatment Action Campaign in many of its legal cases. She has a BA and LL.B from the University of the Witwatersrand and an LL.M from Duke University. She clerked at the Constitutional Court of South Africa for Justice Kate O’Regan and has served as the Special Adviser to former Minister Barbara Hogan (Health; Public Enterprises). She is a former co-director and a founding Trustee of Ndifuna Ukwazi, and previously served on the Boards of the Raith Foundation; SA Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF-SA); the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC); and the SA Council for Medical Schemes. She is currently serving on the Board of Global Witness. She is the recipient of several fellowships and awards, including the Franklin Thomas SA Constitutional Court Fellowship; and the Tom and Andi Bernstein Distinguished Human Rights Fellowship at Yale University’s School of Law. Her articles for the Daily Maverick are available here. She is also the host of a special COVID-19 and IP related podcast called ACCESS.