is a Researcher with the Boston University Global Development Policy Center. She received a JD and a Master’s degree in International Relations, both from Boston University. She works on policy issues related to trade and investment agreements, trade law and development, and access to medicines. She is the author of a forthcoming book titled ‘Constraining Development: The Shrinking of Policy Space in the International Trade Regime.’
Intellectual property protection has played an important role in this pandemic. As some have pointed out, without legal protection for innovative ideas, there may not have been such a rapid response to the pandemic – both in terms of testing/ treatment and, most recently, vaccines. Companies like Moderna, in conjunction with research and funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), have spent a decade developing key technology that enabled quicker vaccine development than ever before. Without some intellectual property protections in place that provide strong financial incentives to invest in new ideas, innovation like this may never have come to light. Nevertheless, India and South Africa initiated a proposal in October that is gaining traction among like-minded World Trade Organization (WTO) members. This proposal would temporarily suspend certain provisions of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS Agreement) for products related to COVID-19, including vaccines. What began with a handful of nations has now reached a majority, with 57 national sponsors of the proposal, and over 60 WTO members who are in support.