Friday, December 18, 2020

How can policymakers encourage COVID-19 vaccine trials for children?

By Jacob S. Sherkow, Lisa Larrimore Ouellette, Nicholson Price, and Rachel Sachs

The past two weeks have been full of exciting COVID-19 vaccine news, including the FDA’s emergency use authorizations (EUAs) for the Pfizer–BioNTech and Moderna vaccines and the nationwide rollout of Pfizer’s vaccine. Choosing how to allocate access to vaccine doses has been left to individual states, leaving policymakers with difficult decisions about how to prioritize their populations, complicated in part by the federal government’s reduction in some vaccine shipments

With a limited supply of doses, who should get the first shots? Some commentators have suggested prioritizing children early for a host of reasons, including hope about children returning to school. Last month a New York Times column asserted that “saving the most lives could mean prioritizing the vaccination of children and young adults.” But there is an important reason that kids can’t be part of the vaccine line yet: we don’t know whether these vaccines work for them. In this post, we explain why COVID-19 vaccines are only just starting to be tested in children and what policymakers can do to spur pediatric vaccine trials.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Patents and Science Fiction: Does Science Fiction Promote Innovation?

Dan Brean and I have just posted a new essay called Enabling Science Fiction. We wrote the essay for the upcoming Association of American Law Schools panel: Science Fiction and the Law, co-sponsored by Biolaw and Intellectual Property. The panel, put together by Nicholson Price, will take place at AALS on January 8th at 11AM EST, and will feature myself (Camilla Hrdy), Dan Brean, Marc Blitz, Deven Desai, and Victoria Sutton.  

The full version of Enabling Science Fiction can be downloaded on SSRN. The essay itself, which will be published in a symposium issue in Michigan Technology Law Review, is under 8000 words. This is like 20% of an average law review article, but below is an even shorter excerpt. We welcome your comments! (

In recent years, patent scholars [such as Janet Freilich and Lisa Ouellette] have [observed that, thanks to lax disclosure and enablement rules] patent examiners are allowing inventors to achieve patents on what seems, quite literally, like "science fiction."

But of course, this is an exaggeration: what’s acceptable in patent law pales in comparison to what is acceptable in literary science fiction. In science fiction, undue experimentation isn’t just permitted, it’s encouraged. Reduction to practice can be, literally, light years away.  ...

However, we argue that, counterintuitively, the genre of science fiction has its own unique enablement requirement: works of science fiction must sufficiently explain—enable—the technologies and inventions that they posit.  ...