| 18.4°C Dublin

Close

Premium


Society must now choose to protect patients over patents

Joseph Stiglitz


Close

Senior research fellow Dr Paul McKay working in the lab space created exclusively to help create a Covid-19 vaccine at Imperial College in London. Photo: PA Wire

Senior research fellow Dr Paul McKay working in the lab space created exclusively to help create a Covid-19 vaccine at Imperial College in London. Photo: PA Wire

PA

Senior research fellow Dr Paul McKay working in the lab space created exclusively to help create a Covid-19 vaccine at Imperial College in London. Photo: PA Wire

Imagine a world in which a global network of medical professionals monitored for emerging strains of a contagious virus, periodically updated an established formula for vaccinating against it, and then made that information available to companies and countries around the world. Moreover, imagine if this work was done without any intellectual-property (IP) considerations, and without pharmaceutical monopolies exploiting a desperate public to maximise their profits.

This may sound like a utopian fantasy, but it is actually a description of how the flu vaccine has been produced for the past 50 years. Through the World Health Organisation's Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System (GISRS), experts from around the world convene twice a year to analyse and discuss the latest data on emerging flu strains, and to decide which strains should be included in each year's vaccine.

As a network of laboratories spanning 110 countries, funded almost entirely by governments (and partly by foundations), GISRS epitomises what Amy Kapczynski of Yale Law School calls "open science".