Spanish COVID-19 Antibody Test to be Manufactured by Biotech Africa Under Open License Agreement with WHO’s C-TAP
C-TAP aims to expand access to COVID-19 technologies and health products.

A new sublicense agreement for a COVID-19 antibody test has been announced Thursday by the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) on behalf of the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP) and South African company Biotech Africa. 

The new agreement builds on the first non-exclusive licensing agreement announced by WHO and MPP last year with Spain’s National Research Council (CSIC). The sublicense allows Biotech to manufacture and commercialize CSIC’s COVID-19 serological test worldwide. The test effectively checks for the presence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies developed in response to COVID-19 infection or to a vaccine. 

Both WHO and Biotech welcomed the agreement, which will cover all related patents and biological material needed to manufacture the test. Additionally, the license will be royalty-free for low- and middle-income countries and will remain valid until the patent expires. 

“The most effective way to get – and keep – ahead of COVID-19 is to keep testing,” said WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. 

“This new agreement means we can take advantage of untapped manufacturing capacity so more people in more countries can have easier access to affordable diagnostics.”

“The signing of this agreement emphasizes [Biotech Africa’s] ongoing goal to support diagnostic needs around the world,” said Jenny Leslie, Biotech Africa Chief Operations Officer. 

2nd year anniversary of C-TAP comes with challenges and need to incentivize private sector 

Medicines Patent Pool Executive Director Charles Gore

The agreement was announced by the World Health Organization on the second anniversary of the launch of C-TAP – which aims to be a pool for the open-licensing of COVID treatment, vaccine and test technologies. 

C-TAP was launched in 2020 by WHO’s Dr Tedros and the President of Costa Rica with the aim to pool technologies that would boost manufacturing capacity in developing countries, and also expand access to COVID-19 health products. 

The pool mechanism stood empty for nearly a year until Spain announced in November 2021 it would partner with C-TAP over the antibody technology.  In March 2022, C-TAP received a boost from an announcement by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) that it would share a number of COVID technologies for which it holds the patents.

Celebrating the second anniversary during a virtual event Thursday, MPP Executive Director Charles Gore acknowledged both the challenges C-TAP has experienced in its two years and the potential for more partnerships to be made in the future. 

“Two years on, to be frank, we’ve made progress, but it’s been slow,” he said. 

Gore pointed to the need to find more ways of incentivizing the private sector to share patents.

“It’s unrealistic to expect for-profit organizations to change into philanthropies overnight. We need to think about how to incentivize the sharing of patents and know-how, and how to put that into practice.” 

“Access should not need a pandemic to put it at the top of the health agenda. But now that it has happened, we must at least make the most of this opportunity. And that’s for COVID-19 now, but critically also for the future,” concluded Gore.  

Image Credits: Marco Verch/Flickr.

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