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2020 Year in Review: COVID-19 Innovation

The COVID-19 pandemic may have disrupted most aspects of life this year, but it has also spurred unprecedented innovation. Backed by strong intellectual property (IP) protections, innovative biopharmaceutical companies were able to respond to the pandemic swiftly and utilize decades of research and development (R&D) efforts on viruses similar to COVID-19 to develop vaccines and therapies in record time.

As COVID-19 vaccines are distributed worldwide, it’s important to look back at the collaboration among biopharmaceutical companies, governments and industry leaders that helped bring us closer to the end of this health crisis.

Enhanced Global Collaboration

We have seen immense regional cooperation among Southeast Asia countries as the COVID-19 pandemic required new and sometimes unconventional collaborations. For example, the Vietnamese government donated hundreds of COVID-19 tests to Indonesia during the pandemic’s onset. At the same time, Singapore announced several cooperation agreements to integrate COVID-19 processes and position the country as a hub for IP.

We’ve also seen new public-private partnerships develop throughout the region. As biopharmaceutical companies develop new treatments and vaccines, governments are directing resources where they are most needed and coordinating efforts to ensure efficient vaccine delivery.

Support for Strong IP Protections

Maintaining strong and reliable IP protection has remained a priority for countries in Southeast Asia throughout the pandemic. Several countries voiced support of ongoing IP rights to incentivize innovation, promote competition, encourage investment and, most importantly, meet patients’ needs.

The Intellectual Property Office of Singapore stated, “Around the world, hundreds of companies are inventing new ways to beat the virus or to hold it at bay… But for innovation to be as productive as possible, intellectual property is key. The best way to harness creativity and enable innovative enterprises to grow is through a reliable IP framework.”

Reliance on Innovative R&D

With the region’s support, biopharmaceutical companies have been able to utilize existing research to pursue new ways of developing vaccines and therapies, some of which have already shown positive safety and efficacy results. For example, biopharmaceutical researchers have developed COVID-19 vaccines that leverage mRNA platforms to trigger an immune response and increase protection against the virus in clinical trial participants. Earlier this year, Pfizer/BioNTech announced that the company’s COVID-19 vaccine was 95% efficacious in preventing transmission of COVID-19, while Astra Zeneca/Oxford University’s vaccine candidate is showing promise with an average 70% efficacy.

As COVID-19 vaccines are distributed worldwide and clinical trials for new products continue, it’s important to note the industry’s progress in 2020 and begin to look forward to next year. Continued support for pro-innovation policies, new public-private partnerships and ongoing government leadership can help improve vaccine distribution, slow the spread of COVID-19 and build toward a healthier Southeast Asia in 2021.

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