“Transactional” sharing of pathogens undermines global health security

The existing international framework for sharing pathogens is “transactional” and undermines global health security, according to research commissioned by the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA).

Produced by Legal Advice Covingtonthe Research it was developed in part from interviews with 82 public health experts.

They were drawn from pharmaceutical companies (44% of respondents), the World Health Organization (17%), public health institutions including the US Centers for Disease Control (23%), biobanks (7%), from academia (1%), NGOs (7%) and other stakeholders (1%).

“The research ‘indicates increased ‘politicization’ of access to pathogen samples, as well as access to pathogen sequence information,” according to a statement released Tuesday by the IFPMA.

“This is due to countries adopting national Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) rules under the Nagoya Protocol and potentially, the future draft Pandemic deal”,

The Nagoya Protocol “employs a transactional model,” requiring nearly 100 countries to obtain a permit “whenever a researcher wishes to access that nation’s biodiversity for research and development,” according to the IFPMA.

“In exchange for the permit, benefit participation in the form of payment on the result of research and development is usually required.”

While this was intended to attach value and protect biodiversity, “there is broad consensus among stakeholders Covington interviewed that the Nagoya Protocol’s transactional model applied to pathogens is illogical and undermines global health security.” .

One possible solution, he adds, would be to untie “access” to pathogens from the “benefits” derived from that access. This “would ensure fast and free sharing of pathogen samples and sequence data, while addressing equity issues separately,” he adds.

“In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and as negotiations on the so-called WHO-led pandemic agreement begin, our report demonstrates the need to ensure free, rapid and unhindered access for scientists to pathogen samples and data of sequence,” said Bart Van Vooren, who led the Covington team.

‘Hostage to the Accords’

“Currently, pathogens are being held hostage by benefit-sharing agreements through the Nagoya Protocol. This poses a major risk to humanity when the next pandemic strikes,” she added.

The report provides examples of how ABS laws have blocked or delayed researchers’ access to pathogenic samples of seasonal flu, SARS-CoV-2, Zika, mpox, Japanese encephalitis, foot and mouth disease, Ebola and African swine fever.

It also shows that delays or rejections for pathogen sharing have led to “suboptimal vaccine composition, including lack of regional representativeness”; diagnostics that have not been adapted or tested against original or novel variants of pathogens; and “biased and unrepresentative epidemiology in genomic surveillance”.

Thomas Cueni, IFPMA director general, said: “Investments in global health security, especially the improvement and expansion of pathogen and disease surveillance, will fall short of the ultimate goal of protecting people and saving lives. , if immediate and unrestricted access to pathogens and their genetic information is constrained”.

Image credits: Paul Owene/Twitter .

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