Covid Innovation: a lot, not so great

Covid therapies are entering the pipeline at a rate 15 to 80 times faster than any previous epidemic with over 4 new therapies entering the commercial pipeline every single day

The relative share of “short term” solutions – non-vaccines and repurposed drugs – is unusually high. 23 percent of Covid therapies are vaccines, versus at least half for the previous three recent less severe epidemics. Over 60 percent of Covid therapies are repurposed drugs, versus no more than a quarter of those for Ebola, Zika, or H1N1.

the rate at which new vaccines enter the pipeline is essentially the same in February and April!

The increased entry driven by huge payoffs to any successful Covid therapies causes entrants to inefficiently race toward lower-value therapies. If enough small firms begin to race in this way, even the large firms that otherwise would have worked on vaccines will give up. And note that this pattern appears empirically: more severe epidemic leads to more entry by small firms, more work on short-term projects

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