The Covid-19 pandemic cast a powerful spotlight on innovation in the health sector, and the power of innovation remains vital in addressing health crises and challenges of the future
Around the world, every day, people are innovating. From improving daily life to collectively addressing the globe’s most pressing challenges, innovation is part of what makes us human. It stands at the core of humanity’s quest to live longer, healthier lives.
And yet innovation does not happen in a vacuum. It depends upon a complex ecosystem involving an open and collaborative environment, strong public and private institutions, vibrant civil society, the rule of law and respect for human ingenuity as well as human rights. Intellectual property and the laws that govern it are an integral part of this ecosystem. At the World International Property Organization, we strive to lead and maintain a balanced and effective global IP system that promotes innovation and creativity for a better and more sustainable future for everyone, everywhere.
The Covid-19 pandemic cast a powerful spotlight on the role of innovation in the health sector. The development of life-saving vaccines barely a year after the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic bears testament to this. Decades of investment, both financial and human, in scientific research enabled this unprecedentedly rapid response. Strong national and international IP systems provided, and continue to provide, the base upon which such investment occurs.
How to ensure equity
We recognise that addressing our global health challenges requires market-based incentives and political will to ensure equity in access to innovative, life-improving and life-saving technologies. In situations where the market does not generate requisite investment in health solutions, for example in the case of neglected tropical diseases, public financing for research and development must fill the gap, and access strategies must be considered from the very beginning to ensure that those who need such innovation are able to benefit from it. This requires well thought through, coordinated and transparent commitments from governments as well as from universities (where many life-saving technologies begin their lives), the private sector and philanthropic entities (whose lines of accountability may not always be clear).
Many global crises, including pandemics, present political, financial and solidarity challenges as much as they do engineering ones. History demonstrates that innovation, political commitment and collective action can produce unparalleled results. This trifecta must be supported by solid data, information-based systems, and institutions resourced and empowered to fulfil their mandates. Although crises that imperil our health and well-being rightly elicit strong emotional reactions, we must always strive to ensure that data and accepted, peer-reviewed science guide our public policy decisions. Our health and that of our planet require nothing less.
The power of innovation and the intellectual property that underpins it have proven vital in addressing Covid-19, and will remain vital in addressing future pandemics. Meeting the next challenge head-on will require the global community to put into practice, in a collective and transparent manner, the many lessons we have learned and continue to learn.