Announcing Variant Bio’s Affordable Medicines Pledge

Andrew Farnum
Variant Bio
Published in
2 min readOct 26, 2022
Photo credit: Melissa Hendershott

Two years ago, I was thrilled to announce Variant Bio’s pioneering benefit-sharing program. The premise was and still is simple: communities around the world who share valuable data with us should receive concrete benefits in return. In short, it is about reciprocity, not philanthropy. Communities share their valuable data with us, and in turn we share any financial value that is generated with them. To us it is simply the right thing to do.

Which is why today I am proud to announce Variant Bio’s new Affordable Medicines Pledge, an expansion of our commitment to sharing the benefits of research with partner communities around the world.

Now, in addition to sharing financial value, we aim to ensure that any drugs we develop will be shared with the communities who contributed data that led to the discovery, making our groundbreaking benefit-sharing program even more comprehensive. Our goal with this program is not only to do the right thing for partner communities, but also to change the standard of how biotech and pharma companies operate.

While meaningful precedents are lacking, the time to change the status quo is clearly upon us. Article 15 (“Sharing of Benefits”) of UNESCO’s Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights states unequivocally that the benefits of scientific research should be made available to society as a whole. This year, a report from the WHO Science Council further recommended that organizations should “develop and execute approaches to make their products and technologies affordable” in low-and middle-income countries.

Left to right: Keolu Fox, Alicia Zhou, Andrew Farnum, Naomi Nkinsi, and Byron Scott, co-panelists at the 2022 Illumina Genomics Forum. Photo used with permission

For this reason, at the recent Illumina Genomics Forum, I advocated that we should not only be making data available to the communities who participate in genomics research, but also the financial benefit of it, and — importantly — the discoveries these communities make possible.

Hence Variant Bio’s newly expanded Benefit-Sharing Program and Affordable Medicines Pledge — another critical step toward making genomics for all so much more than just a mantra.

A poster created during the recent Illumina Genomics Forum following a panel featuring Variant Bio CEO Andrew Farnum and advisor Keolu Fox, amongst others. Photo credit: Seanne Falconer, Twitter