Biobanking infrastructures, which are crucial for responding early to new viral outbreaks, share pathogen genetic resources in an affordable, safe, and impartial manner and can provide expertise to address access and benefit-sharing issues. The European Virus Archive has had a crucial role in the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic by distributing EU-subsidised (free of charge) viral resources to users worldwide, providing non-monetary benefit sharing, implementing access and benefit-sharing compliance, and raising access and benefit-sharing awareness among members and users. All currently available SARS-CoV-2 material in the European Virus Archive catalogue, including variants of concern, are not access and benefit-sharing cases per se, but multilateral benefit-sharing has nevertheless occurred. We propose and discuss how a multilateral system enabling access and benefit-sharing from pathogen genetic resources, based on the European Virus Archive operational model, could help bridge the discrepancies between the current bilateral legal framework for pathogen genetic resources and actual pandemic response practices.
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The manuscript was written by the European Virus Archive access and benefit-sharing compliance team but would not have been possible without the front-line scientists that built up the European Virus Archive infrastructure and have worked tirelessly over the past year to support the global pandemic response. We welcome the European Virus Archive signatory authors who endorse this publication and its call for a multilateral pathogen genetic resources mechanism tied to a distributed biobanking infrastructure. This publication was supported by the European Virus Archive-GLOBAL project that has received funding from the EU Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement number 871029).
© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an Open Access article under the CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license