House leaders speak out on COVID IP waiver expansion

Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine trial

Echoing a bipartisan Senate letter last week, two top House trade leaders are raising serious concerns about the proposed expansion of the World Trade Organization (WTO) waiver of intellectual property (IP) protections for COVID-19 technologies.

The ranking members of the House Ways & Means Committee and Trade Subcommittee, Kevin Brady (R-TX) and Adrian Smith (R-NE), respectively, warned the Biden administration that waiving IP protections for COVID-19 technologies sets “a dangerous precedent that could have a chilling effect on future innovative vaccines and therapies.”

In June, the WTO agreed to waive IP protections in the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement for COVID-19 vaccines, Bio.News reported. The Biden administration supported the decision.

Now, the WTO is considering expanding the waiver to include COVID-19 therapeutics and diagnostics.

“By agreeing to the TRIPS waiver, the Biden Administration has effectively waived IP rights on vaccines for five years, with the possibility of an extension. This decision undermines American innovation and exposes American firms to those who have been trying to steal U.S. vaccine research,” Reps. Brady and Smith wrote in an Oct. 20 letter to U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Katherine Tai.

Bipartisan agreement on IP waiver expansion

Reps. Brady and Smith also said the “lack of sufficient engagement and information from the Administration to date is disappointing and unacceptable.”

“Transparency is essential because it promotes accountability and provides information to Congress and Americans about the actions of the federal government,” they wrote. “The American people deserve to know how their government works and how decisions are being made, and congressional oversight is especially critical when the risks of such a decision by the Administration are high.”

Last week, eight bipartisan U.S. Senators sent a similar letter to Ambassador Tai, urging the administration to protect American innovation.

The Biden administration has not yet decided whether to support the expanded waiver.

The Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) has long opposed the TRIPS waiver for COVID-19 vaccines and the expansion to COVID-19 therapeutics and diagnostics. Read more about why – and how the industry has been sharing COVID IP since the early days of the pandemic.

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