Will ‘open-source’ vaccines narrow the inequality gap exposed by Covid? | Financial Times

“The Cape Town initiative is part of a new push by global health authorities, academics and philanthropists to address that and promote alternatives to “Big Pharma’s” business model, which relies on legally enforceable patent protections to raise investment to fund new drugs. The chronic lack of access to vaccines in the developing world has emboldened some researchers to embrace the concept of “open-source pharma” — an idea modelled on the free software movement, which encourages collaboration and sharing to improve code….

For months, the battle for access was centred on intellectual property rights. But the so-called Trips waiver — proposed by India and South Africa in 2020 — which would allow for flexibility in patents for the manufacture of vaccines, is still being discussed at the World Trade Organization. The hub, in contrast, aims to make the technology accessible to poorer nations and also train qualified staff to produce vaccines locally without breaking any intellectual property rules….

Even if it passes all of its regulatory hurdles, Afrigen’s will not be the first open-source vaccine to go into people’s arms, although it would be the first mRNA one to do so….

 

But the promise of the open-source model is, according to its backers, unprecedented. “A year ago we thought that if only we could get Moderna to give us the tech, the recipe, we would fast-track [vaccine production],” says Afrigen’s Terblanche. “Today, I am in a way grateful that they didn’t, because a turnkey tech transfer from a company like Moderna or Pfizer, you get a box, you sit in the box, and your freedom sits only in that box. The scientists would have learned to bake,” she says. “Now they have learned to make.” ”

William & Mary signs historic partnership agreement with Cuban community media organization | William & Mary

“The partnership is an important step in solidifying the relationship between the university and TVS. Since 2016, W&M Libraries has been working with TVS to collect, preserve and make accessible materials related to Cuban film and art.”

Open Access and Global Inclusion: A Look at Cuba

“Our visit to Cuba not only showed us the history and culture of our Caribbean neighbor but also highlighted barriers to full participation in open access that we anticipated may be shared by others in the global south. Some of these barriers included the digital divide, inequalities in relative purchasing power, global power structures as reflected in scholarly publishing, the dominance of Western scholarly standards, and the privileging of English language scholarship.

While there may be little the OA movement can do directly to influence the Internet infrastructure or the tenure process in developing regions, nonetheless, it can find ways to improve those scholars’ access to OA materials and participation in OA publishing. The OA movement can hold firm to its philosophical underpinnings of global inclusion by taking actions mentioned throughout this paper: it can encourage OA websites to accommodate low bandwidth users; develop more inclusive web discovery tools, publishing standards, and evaluative metrics; assist repositories and journals in creating metadata and websites that aid indexing by search engines; help OA publications and initiatives find funding; and find ways to ease the language gap for those who aren’t English native speakers.

All these observations aren’t intended to trivialize the progress and impact open access has achieved thus far. They’re meant to encourage the OA movement in the West to come even closer to the goal of global inclusion, although what we’ve outlined is by no means all the challenges scholars in Cuba and developing regions face around OA. We give the last thoughts to Maha Bali, an Egyptian academic at the American University, Cairo: ‘But as a scholar from the global South… what is one to do? Wait until the North listens? Because, really, so far the only way to make them listen has been to write in their language, their journals, to their standards of scholarship and hope for the best.’61”