Two professors at the University of Massachusetts have co-authored a new essay explaining how open source licensing “could keep Big Pharma from making huge profits off taxpayer-funded research” in the international, multi-billion-dollar race for a Covid-19 vaccine:
The invention of the “General Public License,” sometimes referred to as a viral or reciprocal license, meant that should an improvement be made, the new software version automatically inherits the same license as its parent. We believe that in a time of a global pandemic, a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine should be licensed with General Public License-like properties…
Fortunately, some pharmaceutical companies, national governments, nonprofits like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and international organizations like the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Initiatives — which supports vaccine development — are putting policies in place that embrace openness and sharing rather than intellectual property protection. Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Initiatives officials have stated that all of their funding agreements require that “appropriate vaccines are first available to populations when and where they are needed to end an outbreak or curtail an epidemic, regardless of ability to pay.” That’s an important start.
However, when there is a safe, effective COVID-19 vaccine, the U.S. and other national governments need to create contractual agreements with firms that provide fair and reasonable funding to cover their costs or even some reasonable profit margin while still mandating the open sharing of the processes for vaccine production, quality assurance and rapid global distribution.
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