Access to pathogens
A pathogen is an organism that causes disease. IFPMA represents the innovative pharmaceutical industry in policy discussions to make sure pathogens and their information are shared more rapidly and widely to protect public health.
When it comes to global public health and health security, it’s essential that researchers can share information about dangerous viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens as rapidly as possible.
One of the biggest lessons learned from COVID-19 is that no response is possible without access to pathogen samples and information.
Without these, innovation can’t begin.
The innovative pharmaceutical industry actively highlights the consequences of restricting the sharing of pathogens and their information to global health security.
To help raise awareness of the importance of pathogen sharing for public health, IFPMA takes part in formal meetings of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, including the Nagoya Protocol.
We also offer our practical, firsthand insight into the realities of pathogen sharing and how this is seriously impacted by rules made to protect biodiversity.
The need for improved global pathogen surveillance
Our ability to prepare for and respond to pandemics swiftly rests on improved global pathogen surveillance, immediate information and data sharing, and the scientific community’s ability to collaborate efficiently and effectively. Fast, certain, and unencumbered access to pathogens and their genetic information – known as digital sequence information (DSI) or genetic sequence data (GSD) – is the bedrock of global health security.
The Nagoya Protocol
The Nagoya Protocol is a supplementary agreement to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.
It aims to encourage countries to establish rules that promote the sharing of benefits accrued from biodiversity. This is beneficial as countries can, for example, receive revenue from the development of a commercial product based on a tropical plant.
To achieve its objective, the Nagoya Protocol established guidance for the establishment of national “access and benefit sharing” (ABS) rules for all genetic resources.
But this has had unintended consequences. It created a problematic situation where countries can make access to harmful pathogens conditional on monetary payments or priority access to medical countermeasures.
If this happens, scientists in some countries do not have what they need to begin the vital research and development necessary to protect people and save lives.
When researchers get access to pathogen samples rapidly, they can begin to work on the vaccines, diagnostics, and treatments necessary to combat a virus in good time.
Promoting fair access to pathogens and information
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we learned that access to pathogens is vital. Harmful pathogens don’t acknowledge national borders. They have the power to affect all of us.
IFPMA and our members want pathogens available to all researchers, along with universal access to medical countermeasures.
We want there to be no delays to the delivery of vital pandemic products so potentially disastrous consequences can be avoided.
In addition, we have pledged to allocate real-time production of vaccines, diagnostics, and treatments for priority populations in lower-income countries and take measures to make them available and affordable.
But this presupposes that there is innovation, which requires access to the pathogens.
For this reason, we believe that governments must carry out robust surveillance worldwide and guarantee the immediate and unhindered sharing of emerging pathogens and their associated data to all researchers.
Global disease surveillance and pathogen sharing
Covington carried out an independent research project, funded by IFPMA, to map out the current practices, rules, and actors in global disease surveillance and pathogen sharing.
The 100 Days Mission
The development of a safe and effective vaccine to protect against COVID-19 was developed in a record 326 days, breaking the previous record of four years for the Ebola vaccine.
For future pandemics, G7 countries issued a call to vaccine manufacturers to meet a goal of developing and producing vaccines within 100 days in any future pandemic situation.
This is the 100 Days Mission.
The first 100 days are vital to potentially preventing a virus triggering a pandemic or epidemic and saving lives.
IFPMA member companies have pledged to meet the 100 days goal. But this won’t be possible if there are difficulties accessing pathogen samples, and information is not available rapidly and predictably.
This is already a real problem. For certain pathogens such as flu viruses, we often experience delays of far more than 100 days. Meeting this target will require commitments to and concrete action from countries and researchers to rapidly and predictably share pathogen samples and sequences.
Berlin Declaration: Biopharmaceutical Industry Vision for Equitable Access in Pandemics
Read our shared vision for equitable access to vaccines, diagnostics, and treatments in pandemics.
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