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Working group

Patents, Vaccines, and Covid-19: A Contested Interplay

Online Roundtable

Add to calendar 2022-04-01 17:00 2022-04-01 19:00 Europe/Rome Patents, Vaccines, and Covid-19: A Contested Interplay Zoom YYYY-MM-DD


01 April 2022

17:00 - 19:00 CEST



Organised by

In this online roundtable, Professor Michele Boldrin (Washington University in St. Louis), Professor Siva Thambisetty (LSE), Professor Peter Drahos (EUI), Sunita Tripathy (EUI), and Svitlana Lebedenko (EUI) will investigate the controversial interplay between the global patent system, and the distribution and development of Covid-19 vaccines. Amongst other things, the presentations will deal with the proposed IP waiver, the rise of open science, and the emergence of novel forms of innovation cooperation between countries.


Michele Boldrin – Vaccines and Patents: the Long-run and the Short-run

The pharmaceutical industry is subject to a complex array of government regulations, of which patents are only a piece. In a context in which pharmaceutical companies pay for clinical trials and generic manufacturers do not, the removal of patent protection may tilt the current complex equilibrium between regulations and subsidies in the wrong direction. It certainly has no positive effects in the short run as it cannot quickly increase the supply of productive capacity. While substantial protection is provided by the first mover advantage—which has played so strong a role in the development of Covid-19 vaccines—simply removing patent protections without reforming the clinical trial system and the overall system of public subsidies to medical research may backfire.

Siva Thambisetty – The Basis of the TRIPS Waiver in Law and Politics and What Follows

The TRIPs waiver is the transformative global response to the pandemic that, two years into it, is yet to materialise. This paper lays out the legal and political case for the suspension intellectual property (IP) rules under international law in order to address IP-led artificial scarcity of vaccines, treatments and other medical technologies. The argument is based on fairness and equity and an affirmative case for allowing private ordering to support the efforts of low-power and governance-poor countries.

Peter Drahos – Patents, Vaccines and Conscience

The last three decades of interaction between the global patent system and pandemics or pandemic threat (HIV-AIDS; SARS; H5N; H1N1; Ebola, MERS and COVID 19) demonstrate that the patent system is itself a huge source of risk when it comes to managing the risks of pandemics. The US and EU have shown little support for a meaningful reform of patent rules to minimize this risk. Developing countries bear a disproportionate burden of the social costs of the global patent system. They need a Plan B. This talk considers what a Plan B might look like.

Sunita Tripathy – With Great Power Comes Greater Responsibility: Reflecting on the Importance of Openness for Good Science

Despite the lapse of two years since COVID-19 was declared as a pandemic by the World Health Organisation, immunisation at the world level is yet to be achieved. Whether overdependence on patents is an incentive or impediment for pharmaceutical innovation in such times is the premise for deliberation in this paper. For that purpose it considers the consequences of such overdependence by presenting an analyses of the activities of prominent pharmaceutical and vaccine manufacturing entities in delivering on the promise of good science to counter these health-related exigencies. Based on the analysis it is argued that to achieve post-normalcy in the long term a serious rethink of the present system within the innovation ecosystem is necessary and urgent. In conclusion it brings to light five main reasons to mandate openness within the regulatory framework governing health innovation so as to foster greater access to the benefits of science especially in times of grave uncertainty. 

Svitlana Lebedenko – Vaccines and IP: the Rise of the Chinese-Russian Innovation Cooperation

China’s rise as a global innovation power is rooted in the development of a sovereign innovation infrastructure, one that allows China to compete in high-technology races with the United States. This process is being affected by an intensifying science and technology partnership with Russia. China and Russia move towards the integration of their innovation infrastructures. The exchange of vaccine technology and declarations to combine efforts in coronavirus research accelerated the formation of the institutional links between the Chinese and Russian innovation systems, especially in the biotechnology sector. If successful, the emerging Sino-Russian innovation cooperation has major implications. One of those being that this partnership could lead to the diffusion of new intellectual property institutions with Chinese characteristics.

The speakers’ talks are taking place in the first hour. In the second hour, participants are welcome to ask questions and take part in the Q&A session and the debate.

The event will be held via Zoom. The joining details are circulated upon registration.


Anna Di Biase

Scientific Organiser(s):

Tommaso Fia (EUI - Department of Law)

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