The NIH licenses key Covid vaccine technology to WHO so other countries can develop shots

United States President Joe Biden made his remarks about authorizing the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 during a speech at the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House in Washington, November 3, 2021.

Evelyn Hockstein Reuters

President Joe Biden on Thursday said the United States has licensed a key technology used in current Covid-19 vaccines to the World Health Organization, which would allow manufacturers around the world to work with the global health agency to develop their own vaccines against the virus.

The National Institutes of Health has licensed her stabilized spike protein technology to WHO and the United Nations drug patent pool, Biden said.

The spike protein is the component in vaccines that induces an immune response, prompting the body to fight the virus. NIH technology keeps proteins in a configuration that allows them to produce a more powerful immune response. WHO and the Medicines Patent Pool can now sub-license the technology to generic manufacturers around the world.

“We are making US government-owned health technologies available, including the stabilized spike protein used in many Covid-19 vaccines,” Biden said.

The decision to share the vaccine technology comes ahead of a virtual global summit on Covid-19 that the United States will host on Thursday. While spike protein technology is crucial, vaccines also include other components, some of which are owned by companies.

WHO, in a statement Thursday, said the license would make crucial technology accessible to people in low- and middle-income countries and help end the pandemic.

The technology behind Covid vaccines was a major sticking point during the pandemic. WHO has repeatedly called on vaccine manufacturers to share their know-how, but Pfizer Other Modern they refused to license the technology behind their shots to the Medicines Patent Pool, one of the United Nations public health agencies like WHO. Moderna, however, does not enforce its patents in 92 poorer nations. Although Pfizer is not sharing the technology, it is providing the US government with 1 billion doses to donate to poorer nations.

WHO has bypassed vaccine manufacturers, setting up a manufacturing center in South Africa to produce vaccines based on the messenger RNA technology that Pfizer and Moderna use in their injections. South African scientists are producing generic copies of Moderna’s vaccine based on publicly available information as the biotech company is not enforcing its patents.

WHO director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, called on Moderna shareholders at the biotech company’s annual meeting to vote in favor of a resolution calling for a third-party investigation into the feasibility of the technology transfer.

“If Moderna worked with us, we could submit the hub vaccine for approval at least a year earlier, which would save lives, reduce the risk of variants and reduce the economic toll of the pandemic,” Tedros said.

The United States is also contributing an additional $ 200 million to the World Bank’s Pandemic Preparedness Fund for a total of $ 450 million and an additional $ 20 million through the United States Agency for International Development to support the ” implementation of Covid tests and antiviral treatments in eight countries. The White House said it is also expanding its vaccine donations through Pfizer to include booster doses and injections for children.

The donations are a far cry from the $ 5 billion the White House has requested from Congress to support vaccinations around the world. Congress has failed to meet Biden’s broader call for $ 22.5 billion in Covid funding due to opposition from Republicans who oppose spending so much.

Senators reached a $ 10 billion Covid funding agreement in April that did not include money for the global vaccination campaign. Republicans prevented the Senate from passing the $ 10 billion in a dispute over the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s decision to end a controversial policy that returned asylum seekers to the nation’s border in Mexico as a public health measure. known as Title 42.

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