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WHO, WIPO, WTO workshop looks at Innovation and Access to COVID-19 Diagnostics and Beyond

28 October 2022 | Departmental news

On 28 October 2022, the third in a series of technical workshops jointly hosted by WHO, WIPO and the WTO discussed a wide range of health, intellectual property and trade issues regarding diagnostics with the purpose of getting a better understanding of innovation and equitable access in this sector. The workshop was attended by 188 participants. The workshop was divided into two sessions: factual introductions by WHO, WIPO and the WTO Secretariats, followed by a roundtable discussion by experts with various backgrounds.

During the first session, presentations by WHO, WIPO and the WTO looked into different types of diagnostics and what was needed to secure access at all levels of health care. Presentations also covered regulatory requirements for diagnostics; the patentability of diagnostics, exclusions, as well as exceptions and limitations; patent information and patent searches; and patent licensing. This was complemented by information about the outcomes of the WTO's 12th Ministerial Conference, especially the WTO’s pandemic response to COVID-19, trade flows and data, the regulatory and trade dimension, as well as the role of intellectual property rights and government procurement to promote technology transfer and equitable access. 

The roundtable provided a platform to discuss different perspectives on the development of and equitable access to diagnostics around the world and challenges encountered during the pandemic. Though diagnostic tools had been quickly developed at the beginning of the pandemic, they were not accessible equitably everywhere. Limited technology transfer had an impact on local manufacturing. Experts also noted that high prices of diagnostics and the lack of effective diagnostics are driving up exposure to inappropriate medicines. 

The roundtable continued to discuss technology as a key component to manufacture new diagnostics, and the role of intellectual property rights for licensing and innovation, technology transfer and access. Panelists noted that sustainable financing was needed to ensure access, as well as initiatives to enable the transfer of technological know-how. It was important to think ahead as technology transfer should not be done in the middle of a pandemic, rather policies should be in place and prioritized throughout. It was also noted that more work was required to adapt policies across sectors to ensure public interest-driven licensing. 

The event was part of the existing collaboration between the three organizations, as first highlighted by their Directors General on June 15, 2021. WIPO Director General Daren Tang, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala agreed that the three agencies will collaborate on the organization of practical capacity-building workshops at the technical level to enhance the flow of updated information on current developments in the pandemic and responses to achieve equitable access to COVID-19 health technologies. This commitment was reaffirmed at a meeting of the three Directors-General on February 1, 2022

The video of the workshop, program and speakers’ biographies are available at: 

WHO-WIPO-WTO Workshop : Innovation and Access to diagnostics for COVID-19 and beyond