COVID-19 Vaccines: Technology Transfer And Licensing Facilitated Rapid Deployment

E. Nesbitt
U.S. International Trade Commission,
United States

Keywords: COVID-19, vaccines, tech transfer, licensing, firm-level collaboration, global value chain


The rapid deployment of the three COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in the United States in 2020 and 2021—developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson (J&J)—involved substantial firm-level collaboration to rapidly complete the multidimensional matrix of steps (planning and implementation) along the entire global value chain from discovery to commercialization. Major advances included: (1) the availability and use of novel technologies; (2) identifying the needed supplies and sources early in the process; (3) quickly establishing and expanding international supply chains meeting regulatory requirements; and (4) speedy scale-up of global production and formulation capacity. A key enabling factor was the vaccine owners’ rapid technology transfer to firms in developing and developed countries. The challenges not only favored partnering and licensing with companies with existing pharmaceutical experience, personnel, and facilities but also entailed lag times while the facilities/equipment were being brought onstream, validated, and the production quality was assured. Most of the collaborations have been established in North America or Europe, with others brought online in Asia (e.g., Japan and Singapore), Africa, and South America. It has been suggested that the cost of the additional facilities and mRNA and viral vector COVID-19 vaccine production equipment may be offset by continued use after the pandemic to produce therapeutics for other medical conditions (e.g., mRNA vaccines for cancer and influenza). Presentation based on article with same name published in September 2022 issue of les Nouvelles, the journal of the Licensing Executives Society International.