Earlier today, Rat.com reported that a patent existed for possible vaccination of SARS-CoV-2 filed under the European Patent Office and granted on Nov. 11, 2019. Rat.com has since learned that a US equivalent patent was granted a year earlier on November 20, 2018 to the same patent holder, Pirbright Institute in Surrey, UK.
The British National Health Service and Pirbright insisted earlier in the year that any patents belonging to Patent to treat Coronavirus apply to a weaker strain of SARS-CoV-2. Rat.com is preparing a list of question for the Pirbright Institute to this effect, since confusion hangs over the definitions.
How Patents Work
Patent applications tend to cover broad-based concepts which are treated with specific solutions. For example, in the case of the Pirbright patents, vaccination and thereapeutic treatments target nonstructural proteins 10, 14, 15 and 16 specifically. These same non structural proteins are the basis of the mutation of the SARS-Cov`-2 virus. In this light, a reading of the Pirbright patents would appear to adequately protect vaccinations and therapeutics that might be useful in treating COVID-19.
Indeed, the institute says as much by its own admission. “Pirbright is one of few facilities in the world that has the expertise in animal immunology and the state-of-the-art virology facilities required to undertake this type of work” the Institute maintains on its website. Pirbright, which received a 5 million pound grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, goes on to list its current activities with respect to actively sourcing treatments and vaccines for COVID-19:
“The Pirbright Institute is joining in the global battle to help control COVID-19 by using its unique expertise and facilities to support the development of vaccines to protect against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the cause of the current pandemic.
Working in collaboration with researchers at the University of Oxford and Public Health England, a team of scientists at Pirbright will begin testing new vaccines for their ability to induce protective antibodies against SARS-CoV-2. The vaccines will include the chimpanzee adenovirus vaccine vector (ChAdOx1) which is soon to enter human phase I clinical trials and has been used to create vaccines for diseases like Ebola, Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome (MERS) and flu.
The vaccine candidates developed at Oxford will contain the spike protein from SARS-CoV-2, the protein against which protective antibodies are generated in infected patients. Pirbright scientists will measure the level of antibodies produced after vaccination of pigs and assess whether the antibodies can block SARS-CoV-2 from infecting cells, thereby preventing infection. Importantly, the pig immune system shares significant similarities to that of humans, so a good response to a vaccine in pigs will help to predict the success of vaccines for human use. Researchers will also test the safety of the new vaccines and monitor whether any adverse effects are observed in the pigs.
This work will inform the development of vaccines that are both effective and safe for humans.”
Why Pirbright's Patents Might Cover COVID-19
To be clear, the fact alone that Pirbright might own patents that protect treatments related to COVID-19 is not in and of itself anything remarkable or to be shocked by. In fact, it would be extremely rare for any pharmaceutical laboratory to begin active trials on a therapeutic drug without first owning some sort of patented right over the administration of the medication should the trials be successful. Not to do this would simply mean a competitor would copy after the trial results were made known. Because of the patents it owns, it would appear that Pirbright is as it maintains the ideal partner for labs actively searching for institutes that are in a commercially sensible position to assist with vaccination and treatment trials. If this is assumed to be the case then Pirbright's patents would appear to adequately cover its COVID-19 treatments.
A technical reading of the patent descriptions of patents belonging to Pirbirght appear to indicate that they protect the precise treatment requirements of COVID-19, too. Treatments for SARS-CoV-2, according to recent science papers, will target “some non-structural proteins, including Nsp3b, Nsp3e, Nsp7_Nsp8 complex, Nsp9, Nsp10, Nsp14, Nsp15, and Nsp16, [which] also play an important role in the virus RNA synthesis and replication, suggesting these proteins may be useful targets for the anti-viral drug discovery.” The patent description for Pirbright’s US patent states that the description of the invention covers a vaccination that “provides a live, attenuated coronavirus [vaccination] comprising a variant replicase gene encoding polyproteins comprising a mutation in one or more of non-structural protein(s) (nsp)-10, nsp-14, nsp-15 or nsp-16.” As well, the patent “may be used as a vaccine for treating and/or preventing a disease, such as infectious bronchitis.”