(The New Republic) On February 11, 2020, public health and infectious disease experts gathered by the hundreds at the World Health Organization’s Geneva mothership.
The official pronouncement of a pandemic was still a month out, but the agency’s international brain trust knew enough to be worried. Burdened by a sense of borrowed time, they spent two days furiously sketching an “R&D Blueprint” in preparation for a world upended by the virus then known as 2019-nCoV…
When the Financial Times editorialized on March 27 that “the world has an overwhelming interest in ensuring [Covid-19 drugs and vaccines] will be universally and cheaply available,” the paper expressed what felt like a hardening conventional wisdom.
This sense of possibility emboldened forces working to extend the cooperative model. Grounding their efforts was a plan, started in early March, to create a voluntary intellectual property pool inside the WHO. Instead of putting up proprietary walls around research and organizing it as a “race,” public and private actors would collect research and associated intellectual property in a global knowledge fund for the duration of the pandemic.
The idea became real in late May with the launch of the WHO Covid-19 Technology Access Pool, or C-TAP. By then, however, the optimism and sense of possibility that defined the early days were long gone.
Advocates for pooling and open science, who seemed ascendant and even unstoppable that winter, confronted the possibility they’d been outmatched and outmaneuvered by the most powerful man in global public health.
In April, Bill Gates launched a bold bid to manage the world’s scientific response to the pandemic…
Any change in media coverage of Gates’s second career may produce a delayed echo within the world he has come to dominate. Here Gates not only controls the narratives, he controls most of the payroll.