Pharmaceutical giants including Pfizer and Moderna are refusing to share data and technology from their COVID-19 vaccines with researchers studying alternative treatments for the virus.
The conflict for researchers who are not affiliated with major pharmaceutical companies that manufactured a COVID-19 vaccine is a result of Pfizer and Moderna owning the patents for the current vaccines. Researchers, therefore, have to receive the companies’ permission to use the vaccines for research into products like nasal or pan-coronavirus vaccines.
Pfizer and Moderna are refusing to share the data, however. Though the decision to withhold COVID-19 vaccine data and information from researchers is legal, it complicates the ability for progress to be made.
Yale University virologist and immunologist Akiko Iwasaki designed a study of nasal vaccines against COVID-19, which she believes would confer better protection against infection and transmission than shots alone. The most accurate version of the study would have been conducted on subjects that have already received an initial vaccine series, as this would reflect real-world scenarios.
Despite asking Pfizer about the possibility of obtaining some vaccine to use in her study of nasal treatments, she has not received any from the company.
“In order for us to develop a better vaccine, we need a comparator. For that reason, everyone who’s doing research in this area is in the same boat, we don’t have access to do a comparison,” Iwasaki said.
Iwasaki addressed the issue at the White House’s summit on the future of COVID-19 vaccines, and former National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins said at the time that he “would not have thought of that” posing a problem with her research. Separately, California Institute of Technology professor Pamela Bjorkman said her lab has had difficulties obtaining COVID-19 vaccines in order to research a treatment candidate that could provide protection against a variety of Covid-19 variants.
“Whatever policy prevents using such vials does a great disservice to global efforts to develop new and improved vaccines,” Bjorkman said.
When asked if Pfizer has provided any vaccines for research purposes, spokesperson Sharon Castillo said, “We are not accepting or reviewing applications for possible clinical research that studies the Covid-19 vaccine.” Another Pfizer spokesperson said the company has its own “extensive studies” of the vaccine underway, and will continue to share information from those studies as it becomes available.
Moderna refused to respond to a press query.
Reporting from The National Pulse.