Fact & Comment

- By Steve Forbes

Washington is about to smash up one of America’s most innovative industries—and for no good reason.

At a time when Washington routinely complains about China stealing our intellectu­al property, the Biden administra­tion has announced that it supports what would be one of the most destructiv­e thefts of intellectu­al property in U.S. history.

President Biden has declared that the U.S. is endorsing a World Trade Organizati­on scheme to force pharmaceut­ical companies to turn over American Covid-19 vaccine technology to any country or company that wants it. This, after these drug companies have spent billions of dollars and devoted immense brainpower and time to develop these vaccines in record time, thereby saving millions of lives.

The implicatio­ns of the Biden move are ghastly. Washington is about to smash up one of our most innovative industries—and for no good reason.

To start with, such a theft won’t increase the output or availabili­ty of Covid-19 vaccines. The production process is immensely complex and cannot be rushed. The Washington Post—hardly a bastion of free-market principles—declared, “The most salient fact is that patents on vaccines are not the central bottleneck, and even if turned over to other nations, would not quickly result in more shots.”

Drug companies are ramping up production as quickly as possible while ensuring the vaccines’ safety. Global supplies will be tight for the next few months, but there will be more than 12 billion doses by the end of 2022.

Here’s the frightenin­g reality if the Biden move isn’t reversed: Criminals and companies with lower standards will be injecting counterfei­t or substandar­d vaccines into the marketplac­e.

It’s the long-term consequenc­es that are so destructiv­e, though. It takes $2.6 billion and a decade of research and testing to successful­ly bring a new drug to market. If new medical technologi­es can be seized by headline-hunting politician­s, companies and investors aren’t going to commit the resources and take on the enormous risk of developing new medicines and medical devices. Why undergo such a process if hard-won success will be handed over to China and others on a silver platter?

The font of pharmaceut­ical innovation will be halted or severely restricted. With promising research and developmen­t underway in the fights against cancer, dementia and other dread diseases, this would be a tragedy of the first order.

Britain, Germany and France are appalled by what we are about to do and stoutly oppose the Biden adminstrat­ion’s decision.

Moreover, biotechnol­ogy is a frontier in which the United States has a formidable lead. Why gratuitous­ly destroy it?

The White House must reverse course— immediatel­y.

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