Institutional Politics Crucial to Brazil’s Vaccine Technology Transfer Success
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Brazil’s Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) sought technology transfer agreements in order to produce a vaccine against the disease. They negotiated an agreement with AstraZeneca in just ten months, allowing local production and making the AstraZeneca formula responsible for more than 50% of the doses administered in Brazil at the height of the pandemic.
The success of the Fiocruz-AstraZeneca partnership is a case study with implications for future initiatives involving technology transfer for increased vaccine production in middle-income countries like Brazil. But what made this partnership possible? Here are the facts:
Factors that led to success:
– Fiocruz’s know-how in bioreactor cell culture and protein purification, which made AstraZeneca see it as a valued partner.
– Regulatory support and flexibility on the part of ANVISA, Brazil’s health surveillance agency.
– Political factors such as agility, transparency, and the existence of a legal framework that permitted technology transfer for products still under development.
Fiocruz was the only institution that negotiated a partnership involving actual technology transfer, making it unique in Brazil. The negotiations on technology transfer took place in the context of political turmoil, which included the former President Jair Bolsonaro’s anti-science approach and his attempts to discredit vaccination.
– Two Brazilian private-sector companies, Eurofarma and União Química, signed technology transfer agreements regarding the BioNTech-Pfizer and Sputnik-V vaccines respectively, but neither has yet been produced in Brazil.
– The Butantan Institute, which belongs to the government of São Paulo state, entered into a fill-and-finish agreement with Sinovac Biotech to receive, package, and distribute the vaccine produced by the Chinese pharmaceutical company.
The success of the Fiocruz-AstraZeneca partnership can be attributed to a combination of political skill, regulatory framework, and existing capacity. Transparency and agility were also crucial factors. Future initiatives in middle-income countries should take note and carefully assess these factors for their own vaccine technology transfer agreements.
The success of the technology transfer agreement between Fiocruz and AstraZeneca proves that middle-income countries can produce their own vaccines during a pandemic. Institutional politics, political skill, regulatory framework, and existing capacity played a vital role in ensuring the success of this partnership. Use of these factors by middle-income countries can ensure the success of future initiatives for increased vaccine production during a pandemic.