UNPRECEDENTED: The Rapid Innovation Response to COVID-19 and the Role of IP

This report tells the story of how COVID-19 vaccines and treatments were rapidly developed and delivered to society, focusing on the enabling role of IP.

The COVID-19 pandemic presented humanity with unprecedented challenges. Researchers and biopharmaceutical companies responded by developing and delivering COVID-19 vaccines and treatments in record time. The innovation response to COVID-19 has been a singular achievement, but we will not be done until every person who needs a vaccine can get one. Most appreciate the quick development of COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics, but many overlook the enormous scope of the effort. Many people are unaware of the extensive collaboration among biopharmaceutical companies and other institutions that made it possible to bring these treatments to society with a compressed timeline that was unprecedented. COVID-19 vaccines and treatments are the product of great science, public-private partnerships, and many years of hard work and investments. Underlying all of this was the intellectual property system (IP system), which helped to secure the investments necessary to enable innovation and enabled the trust that supported industry cooperation and collaboration. This report tells the story of how COVID-19 vaccines and treatments were developed and delivered, focusing on the essential enabling role of intellectual property (IP). One unique contribution of this report is that it relates the views of IP counsel, manufacturing experts, and others in the biopharma industry who played a role in developing treatments. It also documents just how extensive the collaboration and technology transfer has been among biopharma industry companies. Vaccine innovators are sharing proprietary technology with many dozens of partners, on every continent in the world – not despite IP, but rather thanks to the security provided by IP. The research for this report covers the period through August 1, 2021.

Key Findings

1. IP drove the creation of the background technology used to develop COVID solutions.

2. IP enabled collaboration, which was crucial to the rapid innovation of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics to fight the pandemic.

3. IP enabled important investments in bringing new COVID technologies to society.

4. Technology transfer happened rapidly and on a broad scale in response to COVID.

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