A vial of the AstraZeneca covid-19 vaccine. (Benoit Tessier/Reuters)

In their March 11 Thursday Opinion essay, “Don’t let intellectual property rights get in the way of global vaccination,” Matthew M. Kavanagh and Madhavi Sunder argued that nullifying drug patents would accelerate global vaccination efforts, but the opposite is true. Were it not for robust intellectual property protections — and the private capital invested in nascent technologies — the current slate of coronavirus inoculations and treatments would never have been invented. After all, they’re all the product of a drug-development ecosystem that has taken shape over decades — and that ecosystem is built on IP protections.

Those urging President Biden to support efforts to strip IP protections may be well-intentioned. But, if he follows their advice, he would cast serious doubt on the reliability of IP protections, making investors far less eager to risk their money developing new treatments and cures. The pandemic has demonstrated why the world can’t afford to take continued pharmaceutical innovation for granted. Now, more than ever, the system that enabled the rapid response to the coronavirus needs to be preserved and even strengthened. 

John StanfordWashington

The writer is executive director
of Incubate

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