Patent-Free COVID Vaccine from Houston Nominated for Nobel Prize

Corona covid-19 vaccine
COVID-19 Vaccine vials | Image by Simen Stromme

At the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development at Baylor College of Medicine, a team of researchers has developed a patent-free, cheaper alternative to today’s available COVID-19 vaccines.

Developed by Drs. Maria Elena Bottazzi and Peter Hotez in Houston, the formula for the vaccine Corbevax is open to the public, unlike the ones created by companies such as Pfizer and Moderna. Due to this altruism of this medical breakthrough, Texas Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher nominated the pair for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Corbevax can be created by any manufacturer in any country using the team’s public formula, the Tribune reports. Because of its accessibility, Corbevax has gained popularity in low-income areas and has been approved for emergency use in India.

The open-patent is a full deviance from the status quo of the larger, private vaccine manufacturers, such as Pfizer and Moderna.

report by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), a subset of the United Nations, found that Pfizer, BioNTech, and Moderna make a combined $65,000 every single minute.

Intellectual property rights for vaccines have been the subject of much debate.

In a discussion hosted by the Center for Global Development (CGDEV), the group opines: “It is becoming increasingly likely that the world may soon look quite lopsided in one distinct way – hundreds of millions of residents in wealthy nations will be vaccinated before billions of people in developing countries have similar access.”

However, Professor Adrian Towse, director emeritus of the Office of Health Economics in the UK, argues “We now have several COVID-19 vaccines approved by one or more high quality global regulatory bodies. Private sector research and development infrastructure has been key to getting us there.”

He posits, “IPR is key to keeping an up-to-date vaccine portfolio.”

Large private manufacturers are known for patenting their vaccines and marking up the prices of each dose. According to FiercePharma, Pfizer charges the US government almost $20 for each dose of the COVID-19.

Due to their high cost, the OCHA estimates that less than 1% of COVID-19 vaccines from these flagship brands have reached low-income countries.

The Corbevax formula utilizes the classic recombinant protein technology, instead of the more-recent mRNA technique used in vaccines such as Pfizer’s. This makes the formula more accessible for outside manufacturers and suppliers, allows for less expensive production, and may eliminate the need for ultra-cold storage, Boston Children’s Hospital explained.

The Indian manufacturer of the Corbevax-based COVID-19 vaccine, Biological E, will be able to produce the vaccines for around $2 per dose.

“Our intent was to make it available to millions of people in the world who would otherwise not have access to COVID vaccines,” Hotez told reporters.

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