Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); }
Coronavirus information
Coronavirus information
The Zero Canada Project provides resources to help you make the most of staying home.
Visit the hub

In this Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020, photo, a medical worker in a protective suit walks by patients who diagnosed with the coronaviruses settle at a temporary hospital which transformed from an exhibition center in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province.

The Associated Press

Scientists in the city at the centre of China’s virus outbreak have applied to patent a drug made by U.S. company Gilead Science Inc. to treat the disease, possibly fuelling more of the conflict over technology policy that helped trigger Washington’s tariff war with Beijing.

The government-run Wuhan Institute of Virology, based in the city at the centre of the outbreak, said this week it applied for the patent in January along with a military laboratory. An institute statement acknowledged there are “intellectual property barriers” but said it acted to “protect national interests.”

Granting its own scientists a patent might give the Chinese government leverage in negotiations over paying for the drug. But it also might fuel complaints Beijing abuses its regulatory system to pressure foreign companies to hand over valuable technology.

Story continues below advertisement

On Thursday, the official Xinhua News Agency said clinical trials of the drug, remdesivir, were due to start.

Gilead, headquartered in Foster City, California, said it applied in 2016 for a Chinese patent on use of remdesivir against coronaviruses and is waiting for a decision. The coronavirus family includes the novel coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV, blamed for the outbreak in Wuhan.

“Gilead has no influence over whether a patent office issues a patent to the Chinese researchers,” said a company spokesman, Ryan McKeel. “Their application has been filed more than three years after Gilead’s filing and will be considered in view of what is already known about the compound and pending patent applications.”

The institute said its application was filed Jan. 21. Two days later, Chinese authorities suspended most access to Wuhan, a city of 11 million people. That lockdown has expanded to surrounding cities and some in other provinces, isolating a total of about 60 million people in the most sweeping anti-disease measures ever imposed.

China has the right under World Trade Organization rules to declare an emergency and compel a company to license a patent to protect the public. It would be required to pay a license fee that is deemed fair market value.

The government might be able to avoid that fee if the patent were granted to the Wuhan institute, an elite laboratory that is part of the official Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The institute said it applied for a “use patent” that specifies the Wuhan virus as the drug’s target. Gilead’s patent application, filed before the virus was identified, cites only the overall family of coronaviruses.

Story continues below advertisement

The Wuhan researchers, along with a Chinese military laboratory, made their patent application “from the perspective of protecting national interests,” said the institute statement.

“If relevant foreign companies plan to contribute to China’s epidemic prevention and control, we both agree that if the state needs it, we will not require enforcement of rights given by the patent,” it said.

Gilead said last week it was working with U.S. and Chinese health authorities on studying remdesivir. The company said it has provided the drug for emergency use in a small number of patients with the Wuhan virus “in the absence of any approved treatment options.”

In the interests of public health and safety, our coronavirus news articles are free for anyone to access. However, The Globe depends on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe to globeandmail.com. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.

Your subscription helps The Globe and Mail provide readers with critical news at a critical time. Thank you for your continued support. We also hope you will share important coronavirus news articles with your friends and family. In the interest of public health and safety, all our coronavirus news articles are free for anyone to access.

Follow related topics

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies