WHO takes the plunge with Covid-19 knowledge pool

A scientist conducts research on a vaccine for Covid-19 at the laboratories of RNA medicines company Arcturus Therapeutics in San Diego, California March 17, 2020. — Reuters pic
A scientist conducts research on a vaccine for Covid-19 at the laboratories of RNA medicines company Arcturus Therapeutics in San Diego, California March 17, 2020. — Reuters pic

GENEVA, May 16 ― The World Health Organization (WHO) yesterday urged countries, companies and researchers to pull down the barriers and open up their findings on Covid-19 as it unveiled a global knowledge-sharing platform.

The information pool is intended to be a voluntary worldwide repository of intellectual property and open-sourced data, allowing everyone involved to benefit from each other's advances in a common front against the new coronavirus.

Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado, who first proposed the idea, said now was no time to be selfish in the race to find effective vaccines, treatments and technology to combat the deadly pandemic sweeping the globe.

“The idea is to make available for everybody around the world the different advancements and innovations,” Alvarado said at a WHO press conference, via videolink.

“We want to see those innovations and technologies as global public goods to protect humanity against this threat.”

He said the coronavirus pandemic could only be defeated with international solidarity, “not being selfish”.

Dozens of vaccine projects have been launched worldwide and several clinical trials are under way to try to find a cure for the disease.

The potential financial stakes are huge and several major pharmaceutical companies are racing against the clock in the hope of being the first to bring a vaccine to market.

Sanofi triggered a storm this week when it said that any potential Covid-19 vaccine it reached would go to the United States first because Washington was helping to fund the French pharmaceutical giant's quest.

Market forces not enough 

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said researchers were working at breakneck speed to understand the virus and develop potential vaccines and medicines.

However, “traditional market models will not deliver at the scale needed to cover the entire globe,” he said.

“In these extraordinary circumstances, we need to unleash the full power of science, to deliver innovations that are scalable, usable, and benefit everyone, everywhere, at the same time.

“Solidarity within and between countries and the private sector is essential if we are to overcome these difficult times.”

The platform will be officially launched on May 29.

“WHO has accepted this visionary proposal and will, in the next few weeks, launch a platform for open, collaborative sharing of knowledge, data and intellectual property on existing and new health tools to combat Covid-19,” said Tedros.

The health technology repository will include vaccines, medicines, diagnostics and any other tool that may work against Covid-19.

The novel coronavirus has killed more than 300,000 people and infected nearly 4.5 million since the outbreak first emerged in China late last year, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP. ― AFP

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