On Wednesday, May 6, the R Street Institute held a panel discussion on the innovation of health products that will help the public during COVID-19 and future pandemics. This discussion was moderated by R Street Director of Technology and Innovation Charles Duan. The panelists included Michael Weinberg, executive director of the Engelberg Center on Innovation Law and Policy at NYU; Alicia Gibb, executive director of the Open Source Hardware Association; Matt Lane, executive director of the Coalition Against Patent Abuse; and Ana Santos Rutschman, professor at the St. Louis University School of Law.

The conversation started with Rutschman describing the vaccine manufacturing landscape. In 2003, there were less than 10 vaccine manufacturers in the United States. While the number of vaccine manufacturers continued to decrease, the number of patent applications and patents granted have been increasing. This led to the bigger question: How do we incentivize innovation in health technologies?

Gibb believes that open sourcing can help with this problem. She explained that open source innovation is more profitable because the patent process is expensive, and it would allow for innovation to move faster. Weinberg noted that taking a barrier of entry down, like patents, will help small groups or individuals be able to fill the innovation gaps that manufacturers are missing. However, he stresses that this option would have to come with some regulation to prevent any individuals from using innovations for bad purposes.

Lane ties this whole discussion together by explaining that there are many ways to encourage innovation, and one size doesn’t fit all. While patents can be a good incentive, we might want to consider a cash prize pool to reward innovation, then let everyone produce the drug. What matters most is that we keep access in mind when looking toward new innovation policies.

Event Description

The COVID-19 pandemic has demanded tremendous, rapid innovation to solve a worldwide public health crisis on all scales, from global research and development into pharmaceutical treatments to individual families sewing masks at home. In this event, we’ll hear from experts in a variety of fields of innovation talking about the challenges and opportunities for innovation on vaccines, medicines, 3D printing, open-source ventilators, personal protective equipment and more, both for the present crisis and for the future.

To learn more:

The R Street Institute

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