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A new resource for COVID-19 vaccine patents is now available(Source:Alamy)

A new database of patents on COVID-19 vaccines has been launched by the Medicines Patent Pool, an organization that arranges voluntary licensing deals to help improve access to effective and affordable medicines for people in low and middle income countries.

The VaxPal database builds on 10 years of experience with the MPP’s MedsPal database, which contains information on the patent status of essential medicines, according to the pool, which last month said it was ready to help with voluntary licensing and technology transfer for COVID-19 vaccines. (Medicines Patent Pool Prepared To Step In On Vaccines)

The information in VaxPal is intended to offer “greater transparency on patents relating to key COVID-19 vaccines and focuses primarily (though not exclusively) on patents filed by the entities that have developed each vaccine,” according to the MPP, which is an arm of the global health agency, Unitaid.

“Users should also be aware that relevant patent applications are likely to have been filed over the past year and a half but may not yet be public,” the MPP noted, adding that while patent applications are generally only published 18 months after their filing, there are procedures for early publication, as is the case for some of the patent applications that are relevant to COVID-19 vaccines.

The Vaccines

10 vaccines are currently included in VaxPal. They are from the following companies (with the vaccine name and number of patents listed):

  • AstraZeneca PLC/Oxford University (ChAdOx1/nCoV-19, two). 

  • Bharat Biotech (Covaxin, two).

  • CureVac NV (zorecimeran/CVnCoV, 11).

  • Gamaleya Center (Sputnik V, six). 

  • Johnson & Johnson (Ad26.COV2-S, 23). 

  • Moderna, Inc. (mRNA-1273, 17). 

  • Novavax, Inc. (Covovax/NVX-CoV2373, five). 

  • Pfizer Inc./BioNTech SE (tozinameran/Comirnaty, 14). 

  • Sinopharm Group Co. Ltd. (BBIBP-CorV, one). 

  • Sinovac Biotech Ltd. (Coronovac, six).

At present, the information is provided in as an Excel workbook, but over the coming months it will be turned into a fully searchable online database, as is the case for MedsPal. In the meantime the workbook will be regularly updated, the MPP said.

“Whenever possible, detailed worldwide patent status information is also provided” – Medicines Patent Pool

The information in VaxPal relates to approved vaccines as well as those going through the World Health Organization’s emergency use listing and prequalification evaluation process. As well as patents, VaxPal provides information on licensing agreements and potential contractual arrangements.

It also contains a worksheet on patent families that groups all families identified as being relevant or potentially relevant for the vaccines selected, and allows multi-criteria searching by vaccine type, innovator/originator/developer, patent family, publication number, expected expiry date, and the applicant/assignee for the patent.

“Whenever possible, detailed worldwide patent status information is also provided and the information is organized in one spreadsheet per vaccine,” the pool noted, adding that the worksheet will be updated to add new vaccines/families and detailed patent status.

The information in VaxPal was collected from various sources including publicly available patent search databases, regional and national patent offices, the originator/innovator’s website, the scientific literature and financial statements.

Basic data on the vaccines, such as approval information, product labels, vaccine construct, composition, indication and technology, came from sources such as the US Food and Drug Administration, the WHO, clinical trials databases, US SEC filings, and press releases.

Not ‘Freedom To Operate’

The MPP stressed that VaxPal should not be seen as a complete and authoritative source of patent information, and that it provided only a “snapshot at a point in time, based on the information available to MPP.”

It also cautioned that VaxPal was not a “freedom to operate” (FTO) analysis “and should not be interpreted as such.” FTO refers to whether it is commercially “safe” for an individual or entity to make or sell a product without infringing anyone else’s patent or other intellectual property rights.

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