Licensing of COVID-19 Diagnostic IP to Facilitate Fast Access in the Third World
November 25, 2021
By Noel Courage
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) secured a license from the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC; Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas) for a COVID-19 diagnostic technology. The CSIC is a public research institute that holds patent rights in its diagnostic technology. This COVID-19 test detects the presence of anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in the blood. The licence is significant because it is not limited to third world countries as many of the other MPP’s licenses and the WHO’s COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP). It is a global, non-exclusive licence. The licence will be royalty-free for low- and middle-income countries. It is also the first COVID-19 diagnostic test licence achieved by both the WHO and MPP.
A prior article reported on MPP having recently secured access to a pair of blockbuster COVID-19 drugs. These licences were limited to 95 countries, representing just over half of the world’s population, which is considered a significant accomplishment. These drug and diagnostic licences are intended to facilitate rapid manufacture and deployment of technology to detect and fight the COVID-19 disease. The lack of a territorial restriction on the diagnostic may further facilitate diagnostic test production because new kit manufacturers are unrestricted by CSIC IP with respect to where they can source, manufacture, and sell components and kits.
The CSIC is also providing technology transfer, not just an IP licence. Providing technology transfer means that CSIC will share know-how and training with MPP and licensees. This allows them to get up to speed quickly, instead of starting at square one to develop their own tests. The CSIC tests are relatively simple and can be run in a basic serology lab set-up. The WHO encouraged other developers of COVID-19 vaccines, treatments and diagnostics to follow this example.
To date, third world countries have been building out their own diagnostic testing infrastructure. Supply of raw materials remains an issue, regardless of diagnostic expertise. This new licence option and the technology transfer may help increase diagnostic test availability, as well as add to domestic self-sufficiency.
 There may be other third-party patents to be aware of.
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