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Andrew Spiegel, Esq.

Andrew Spiegel, Esq.

Biden’s vax generosity may harm cancer research

By Andrew Spiegel

President Biden craves a cure for cancer. In a speech to Congress this spring, he vowed to “end cancer as we know it.” As vice president, he helped start the Cancer Moonshot initiative.

Yet by giving his backing to a global waiver of intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines, the president may have endangered millions of Americans living with cancer.

The Biden administration has said it would join a World Trade Organization move to suspend IP safeguards for the vaccines. Its intentions are no doubt sincere, founded in the belief that a waiver will help rid the world of COVID-19. Yet the setting aside of IP protections has consequences the administration seems to have overlooked.

GSWNH AndrewSpiegel 100121

Andrew Spiegel, Esq.

If adopted, the waiver won’t galvanize the supply of vaccines bound for the developing world — certainly not in the immediate term. What it will do is threaten scientific innovation that could lead to cures for cancer and other diseases.

I’ll explain why. Technically, the waiver supported by the United States would only apply to IP on COVID-19 vaccines. So what has this got to do with cancer?

There are two consequences. First, intellectual property underpins scientists’ incentives to make discoveries. Without proprietary “armor” to protect research, rivals could blithely — and lawfully — use scientists’ know-how, data or manufacturing processes.

Second, waiving IP on underlying vaccine technology has ramifications for drug innovation. Since the same technologies are used for potential treatments for other diseases, vaccine-makers would have to give up IP on those projects, too.

Consider the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. They use “mRNA” to promote an immune response to Covid-19, a technology that took decades to develop. With the successful rollout of mRNA Covid-19 vaccines, researchers in the United States and Germany now hope they can use mRNA to fight other viruses. Moderna has active trials for mRNA vaccines for Zika, HIV and the flu.

Cancer doctors and patients pray that mRNA is the key to a cure. Moderna, in fact, has two mRNA vaccine candidates for cancer. Researchers hope that mRNA could instruct the body to combat cancerous tumors like it fights a virus.

With the IP waiver, Moderna’s mRNA technology could end up with rivals, leaving the company with greatly diminished incentives — and greatly diminished investment dollars — to continue with mRNA clinical trials, including ones for cancer. Advanced drug innovation could come to a halt. What investor would fund biotech startups if copycats can swoop in?

This scenario is made especially distressing by the fact that the upsides of the IP waiver are negligible. Manufacturers need specialized facilities and hundreds of ingredients to make vaccines. Vaccine-makers have struck licensing deals to scale up production. Every facility on earth that can safely produce effective vaccines is already doing so. Getting rid of IP won’t make the scale-up go any faster. It could, however, unleash millions of shoddy copycats and event counterfeit vaccine doses.

President Biden has shown how he can help vaccinate the world without holding mRNA research hostage. For instance, he has already agreed to donate 580 million of the United States’ surplus vaccine doses to COVAX — a WHO, CEPI, and Gavi co-led initiative to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to developing countries.

With Biden, the cancer community has an ally in the White House. Yet, with the IP waiver, he’s undermining the only industry that may find a cure for cancer.

Andrew Spiegel, Esq., is the Executive Director of the Global Colon Cancer Association.

Local News

Isra Syouri, 13, of Palos Hills, daughter of Steve's Bite owners, Sufian "Steve" and Kifah Syouri, cut the ribbon during the grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony of the restaurant at 11906 S. Harlem Ave., Palos Heights. (Photos by Kelly White)

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Isra Syouri, 13, of Palos Hills, daughter of Steve's Bite owners, Sufian "Steve" and Kifah Syouri, cut the ribbon during the grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony of the restaurant at 11906 S. Harlem Ave., Palos Heights. (Photos by Kelly White)

Steve’s Bite holds grand opening

By Kelly White Palos Heights welcomed in a new business last weekend. Steve’s Bite, 11906 S. Harlem Ave. in Palos Heights, held a grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony on October 15. The store officially opened its doors over the summer, and owners Sufian “Steve” and Kifah Syouri said they could not be happier to…

Celebrating the naming of Rev. Jeffrey Clemons to the Lyons Township Mental Health Commission are (from left) executive director Ron Melka, Trustee Mike Porfirio, Rev. Clemons and state Sen. Steve Landek. (Staff photo)

Summit’s Rev. Clemons named to township’s Mental Health Commission

By Steve Metsch The Township of Lyons has a new member on its Mental Health Commission. The Rev. Jeffrey Clemons, of Antioch Baptist Church, 7513 W. 64th St., Summit, is joining the commission. His appointment won unanimous approval from the township board at its meeting on Oct. 12. He is the first African-American on the…

Carson Kukulski, 2, of Palos Heights, was happy to attend Lake Katherine's first-ever Oak-tober Fest at the nature center, 7402 Lake Katherine Dr., Palos Heights. (Photos by Kelly White)

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By Karen Sala Your correspondent in Gage Park (773) 471-1429 • [email protected] It’s October. Check the batteries in your smoke detectors. I woke up to the unpleasant chirping of one of my smoke alarms the other morning at about 4 a.m. Thankfully I had a 9-volt battery, so I was able to change it and go…

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By Peggy Zabicki Your correspondent in West Lawn 3633 W. 60th Place • (773) 504-9327 I finally went to the new Dollar Tree at 8444 S. Pulaski. It is a very big store and parking lot. It has the usual fun and useful dollar store items. Everything is still $1. There are lots of empty shelves and room for…

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By Kathy Headley Your correspondent in Chicago Lawn and Marquette Manor 6610 S. Francisco • (773) 776-7778 As you may remember, shortly before the pandemic began, St. Rita of Cascia Parish invited Myra Kathryn Richardson to showcase some exhibits from her Mary Eve Thorsen Museum collection in the parish hall. Items from the Dick and…

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Jim Sexton, the former Evergreen Park mayor, shows his sign for the drive given in honor at the grand opening of the new baseball and softball fields. (Photos by Jeff Vorva)

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By Jeff Vorva Brand new fields and a retired mayor were the stars of the show on Oct. 14. Evergreen Park High School had a grand opening of its new turfed baseball and softball fields. The fields were used in late spring, but this event was to celebrate the fields and show them off to…

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