Negotiations are currently taking place at the World Health Organization (WHO) to conclude a new pandemic agreement by May 2024. The objective of the new agreement is to learn from mistakes made during the Covid-19 pandemic and to be better prepared for future outbreaks. A key learning from the Covid-19 pandemic is the need to address access to intellectual property to assure timely and equitable access to pandemic countermeasures.
An important issue that is not adequately addressed in drafts of the agreement that have so far been publicly available is the sharing of knowhow and trade secrets necessary for the production of pandemic products. Knowhow/trade secrets sharing is particularly important for more complex medical technologies that cannot be easily replicated with access to patents alone. Examples include vaccines and monoclonal antibodies. Therefore, the new WHO pandemic instrument needs to include a provision for access to knowhow/trade secrets. We have drafted a proposal for such a provision.