Massive, rapid vaccine production will require firms to share information

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Mega Doctor NEWS

Newswise — As the world rushes to identify safe and effective vaccines and therapeutics to counter the COVID-19 epidemic, attention is turning to the next step: manufacturing these products at enormous scale. 

Nicholson Price

University of Michigan law professor Nicholson Price says companies should share information about manufacturing now so that the pending massive scale-up production can be as smooth as possible. Price, who teaches intellectual property, health law and regulation, co-authored a study with Arti Rai of Duke University and Timo Minssen of the University of Copenhagen that appears in the journal Science. 

How receptive have pharmaceutical companies been to sharing their research with other companies? Could you explain what this process would entail?

It’s been a mixed bag. Traditionally, pharma companies have been very reluctant to share their work. Even when they need to share the identity of a drug that works, because they patent the drug and get FDA approval, they’re typically very reluctant to share much else, especially information about manufacturing procedures (or other things like which potential candidates don’t work out). Manufacturing information is often kept secret because it helps keep other companies off the market longer, even after patents have expired, and this is especially true for big molecules that are harder to manufacture.  

There’s been some sharing in the COVID-19 context, both in the context of antibodies (a group of six companies asked the Department of Justice for permission to share information including manufacturing details, and received it) and for vaccines, where some companies have teamed up, though that’s more like a traditional licensing deal than sharing between normally competitive companies.

Sharing would involve transferring knowledge about how products