Spain Launches The WHO Platform To Share Knowledge With a COVID-19 Serological Test

Just a year ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched a platform for those who were developing vaccines, tests or drugs against the coronavirus to share their technical knowledge and data with other producers. The idea behind the mechanism, called C-TAP (Joint Access to Technology against COVID-19), was to promote an open science model, in which licenses (the authorization to use patents) were granted on a non-exclusive and Transparent to take advantage of the highest possible manufacturing capacity by other qualified companies, without fear of being sued.

But participation in this repository is voluntary. Driven by Costa Rica, it only received public political support from a handful of countries, very few of them European. In these 12 months, despite the WHO has advocated for its use to solve the shortage of products such as vaccines and the lack of access in the poorest countries, the C-TAP had not received the contribution of any pharmaceutical company or of any research group. Up to now.

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The WHO mechanism has just received its first official offer, and it comes from the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC), which has announced that it will make available the technology of an antibody test that they have designed, with the aim that can be manufactured in other countries freely.

CSIC sources explain to elDiario.es that “they have already made the technology available to the WHO so that it can manage the following administrative steps.”

As they point out, what they intend to share with CTAP is a serological test with “a reliability of 99%, capable of identifying and quantifying three different types of antibodies (IgG, IgM and IgA) and capable of differentiating the antibodies produced by vaccination, from those produced by natural infection by COVID-19 “. This type of test uses four proteins from the virus and “is capable of identifying and quantifying three types of antibodies.”

This test has been licensed in ELISA format, a type of kit, to the Spanish company Immunostep, located in Salamanca, in non-exclusive terms, indicates the center, which also explains that these tests have been commercialized since autumn 2020 in Europe and Mexico. “The CSIC has held talks with an Argentine and a Mexican company to evaluate the possibility of manufacturing these tests in these countries.”

Until now, inequality has not only been felt in the global distribution of vaccines against the coronavirus. Currently, high-income countries conduct about 125 times more tests per day than low-income countries, largely because low-income countries have not been able to acquire them at the same rate or deploy them at the same rate, with the same volumes, as WHO has recently made clear.

Jesús Marco, vice president of Scientific and Technical Research of the CSIC, announced the decision this Friday at the ceremony of the first anniversary of the C-TAP. “At the CSIC, we have worked since the beginning of this pandemic so that all the technologies related to COVID-19 that are being developed in our laboratories reach society as soon as possible,” he said.

“Our goal is for them to be manufactured both in Spain and in any other country that requires them, and for this we have approached licenses for the transfer of rights to exploit CSIC technologies in non-exclusive terms, avoiding situations in which demand cannot be served by production limitations by the licensee, “he said.

The representative of the CSIC explained that, after learning about the C-TAP initiative, conversations began a few months with both the WHO and the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP), one of the institutions that have been behind the mechanism throughout this year. In fact, C-TAP is inspired by the experience of MPP, which is a United Nations-backed organization that has been working for a decade to increase access and facilitate the development of medicines for impoverished countries thanks to a voluntary licensing mechanism.

The objective of the CSIC, they say, is to launch transfer projects so that its technologies are produced in such a way that “they reach all those countries that demand them and at affordable prices for citizens.”

The WHO has said it is in advanced negotiations with five diagnostics manufacturers. “We welcome the interest expressed by various diagnostic manufacturers who are already in advanced conversations with C-TAP to share their technology. And also from research institutions that are willing to share their knowledge through C-TAP,” said the WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at the event.

“But we need more developers to come out and share life-saving tools so that we can increase production and expand access. Originating companies that bring their expertise to C-TAP can quickly access the production capacity they need to make enough. for the whole world, while collecting the corresponding royalties, “continued the head of WHO.

“Once the agreements are signed, the C-TAP will support the companies in managing the signed agreements for their effective implementation and will provide technical assistance to the countries when necessary. Once it is fully operational, the C-TAP will helps manufacturing expansion could provide increased supply for countries and COVAX [el mecanismo de reparto equitativo de vacunas]”said the CEO.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus wrote a letter this Thursday with Carlos Alvarado Quesada, President of Costa Rica, asking all WHO Member States to promote the exchange of intellectual property and the transfer of technology through the mechanism.

The Government of Pedro Sánchez has recently announced its support for C-TAP, almost a year after its creation. Arancha González Laya, Minister of Foreign Affairs, also participated in the event. “Non-exclusive and transparent licenses are vital to increase production,” said González Laya. “We are proud to be part of the C-TAP family.”

“Welcome Spain, you are now co-sponsors. C-TAP was launched with a conviction, it has the potential to help the world stop the pandemic,” said Alvarado Quesada, president of Costa Rica, at the WHO event. “All this promoting innovation, without barriers, on a voluntary basis. Making this knowledge available can help overcome bottlenecks in production.”

During the event, the CSIC representative left the door open to study the possibility of promoting the non-exclusive licenses of the vaccine candidates that are being developed to satisfy “the demands of society and the creation of capacity in low-income countries. and a half”. “Serological tests are expected to be the first collaborative project between the CSIC and the WHO, and both institutions have the idea of ​​extending this initiative to other technologies related to COVID-19,” said Javier Maira, head of the Department of CSIC’s Commercial Strategy and Internationalization, in a press release.

Mariângela Batista Galvão Simão, deputy director general of Access to Medicines, Vaccines and Pharmaceutical Products of the WHO, said during the press conference that “they have two vaccine producers in sight who would be willing to share the technology” and “the discussions they are being started closely now through the CTAP. “

The lack of vaccines and the enormous inequality in their distribution has led civil society organizations to increase their pressure for governments, pharmaceutical companies and research centers to join the C-TAP, including the NGO specialized Health by Law, which has described this Friday as “very important” the support of the Spanish Government and the CSIC.

“We hope that this collaboration will grow and that, in the future, the COVID-19 technologies and vaccines successfully developed by the CSIC will also be part of this global fund that will allow increasing the production and distribution of vaccines, and accelerating the end of the pandemic, “the organization said on Twitter.

In a recent report, the Spanish campaign No es Sano, in which Salud por Derecho participates, criticizes that, until now, the companies that own patents and know-how about vaccines “have maintained control of the production and refuse to share knowledge. ”

In his opinion, proof of this is “his rejection of C-TAP”. “The pharmaceutical industry did not welcome the initiative and recalled that in intellectual property rights are the incentives of the industry and that an initiative that promotes sharing them would not seem the best option”, reads the document. Instead, they denounce, the companies “have reached bilateral agreements with partner companies for the complete production of the doses or, in many other cases, partially transferring their knowledge and subcontracting only some stages, such as the production of the active substance or the filling and finished vials “.

“Boosting global and non-exclusive licenses, reinforced through organized technology transfer and under the umbrella of the WHO, is a great opportunity to change the course of current history. Vaccine shortages are artificial and through mechanisms as C-TAP its production would multiply exponentially and, with it, the current quantities available “, says No es Sano.

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