The Intellectual Property of Vaccines: Takeaways from Recent Infectious Disease Outbreaks

Ana Santos Rutschman, Saint Louis University School of Law


This Essay examines the ways in which intellectual property regimes influence incentives for the development of new vaccines for infectious diseases. Charting the tension between market forces and public health imperatives, the Essay considers an emerging solution to the long-standing problem of insufficient incentives for vaccine research and development: the rise of public-private partnerships in the health space. The Essay provides a short case study on CEPI, a large-scale public-private partnership dedicated exclusively to funding research on vaccines for infectious diseases. In exploring how the interaction between intellectual property rules and practices affect vaccine innovation, the Essay offers illustrations from recent outbreaks of infectious diseases, including the 2019 novel coronavirus, Zika, and Ebola.