In 2013, Open AIR published foresight research anticipating a future shaped by shocks like a catastrophic global pandemic. During the decade since, Open AIR has posited open innovation, free from patent roadblocks, to promote equitable access to knowledge-based technologies including vaccines to fight known and new diseases alike.

The Open AIR network has been awarded a new grant from the New Frontiers in Research Fund through a special call for research for post-pandemic recovery.  The funding will allow Open AIR to expand on their field-leading research that seeks to alleviate socio-economic inequalities on the African continent and around the world by challenging inequitable access to knowledge rooted in outmoded governance systems. Professor Jeremy de Beer is the Principal Investigator on the new project.

Open AIR’s insights on innovative solutions in the face of a pandemic were a decade ahead of their time. As the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the globe, models that Open AIR has empirically studied and consistently championed were put into use to vaccinate huge sections of the world’s population. But the African continent has still borne the brunt of vaccine inequity during the coronavirus pandemic. These inequities must be addressed as publicly funded science partnerships with the private sector and civil society offer hope for mRNA-based vaccines for malaria and even cancer, not to mention new pandemics.

This new grant flows directly from Open AIR’s past policy successes in making the international intellectual property system more just in distributing the benefits of innovation. The funding will allow Professor de Beer and his colleagues to help shape the global governance of innovation, including through a new international treaty and other agreements right now being negotiated. Supported by over 15 years of empirical research and a cross-regional community of practice, Open AIR will drive change by supporting fairer representation and more equitable relationships for those who can benefit from improved access to knowledge.

In addition to Professor de Beer, Professor Chidi Oguamanam is a Co-Principal Investigator on the new grant, while Professor Florian Martin-Bariteau is among the Co-Applicants, alongside members of the Open AIR Steering Commitee.

The NFRF Special Call for Research for a Postpandemic Recovery aims to mobilize Canadian-led research efforts in support of a more equitable, sustainable and resilient post-pandemic reality. The New Frontiers in Research Fund is overseen by the Canada Research Coordinating Committee.

Congratulations to the Open AIR team on the launch of this important project!