In delivering vaccines, pharmaceutical companies aided by monumental government investments have given humanity a miraculous shot at liberation from the worst pandemic in a century.
But wealthy countries have captured an overwhelming share of the benefit. Only 0.3 percent of the vaccine doses administered globally have been given in the 29 poorest countries, home to about 9 percent of the world’s population.
Vaccine manufacturers assert that a fix is already at hand as they aggressively expand production lines and contract with counterparts around the world to yield billions of additional doses. Each month, 400 million to 500 million doses of the vaccines from Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson are now being produced, according to an American official with knowledge of global supply.
But the world is nowhere close to having enough. About 11 billion shots are needed to vaccinate 70 percent of the world’s population, the rough threshold needed for herd immunity, researchers at Duke University estimate. Yet, so far, only a small fraction of that has been produced. While global production is difficult to measure, the analytics firm Airfinity estimates the total so far at 1.7 billion doses.
dangerous new variants emerge, requiring booster shots and reformulated vaccines, demand could dramatically increase, intensifying the imperative for every country to lock up supply for its own people.
The only way around the zero-sum competition for doses is to greatly expand the global supply of vaccines. On that point, nearly everyone agrees.
But what is the fastest way to make that happen? On that question, divisions remain stark, undermining collective efforts to end the pandemic.
Some health experts argue that the only way to avert catastrophe is to force drug giants to relax their grip on their secrets and enlist many more manufacturers in making vaccines. In place of the existing arrangement — in which drug companies set up partnerships on their terms, while setting the prices of their vaccines — world leaders could compel or persuade the industry to cooperate with more companies to yield additional doses at rates affordable to poor countries.
Those advocating such intervention have focused on two primary approaches: waiving patents to allow many more manufacturers to copy existing vaccines, and requiring the pharmaceutical companies to transfer their technology — that is, help other manufacturers learn to replicate their products.
more than 100 countries in asking the W.T.O. to partially set aside vaccine patents.
But the European Union has signaled its intent to oppose waivers and support only voluntary tech transfers, essentially taking the same position as the pharmaceutical industry, whose aggressive lobbying has heavily shaped the rules in its favor.
Some experts warn that revoking intellectual property rules could disrupt the industry, slowing its efforts to deliver vaccines — like reorganizing the fire department amid an inferno.
“We need them to scale up and deliver,” said Simon J. Evenett, an expert on trade and economic development at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland. “We have this huge production ramp up. Nothing should get in the way to threaten it.”
Others counter that trusting the pharmaceutical industry to provide the world with vaccines helped create the current chasm between vaccine haves and have-nots.
The world should not put poorer countries “in this position of essentially having to go begging, or waiting for donations of small amounts of vaccine,” said Dr. Chris Beyrer, senior scientific liaison to the Covid-19 Prevention Network. “The model of charity is, I think, an unacceptable model.”
halting vaccine exports a month ago. Now, as a wave of death ravages the largely unvaccinated Indian population, the government is drawing fire at home for having let go of doses.
poses universal risks by allowing variants to take hold, forcing the world into an endless cycle of pharmaceutical catch-up.
“It needs to be global leaders functioning as a unit, to say that vaccine is a form of global security,” said Dr. Rebecca Weintraub, a global health expert at Harvard Medical School. She suggested that the G7, the group of leading economies, could lead such a campaign and finance it when the members convene in England next month.
Pfizer expects to sell $26 billion worth of Covid vaccines this year; Moderna forecasts that its sales of Covid vaccines will exceed $19 billion for 2021.
History also challenges industry claims that blanket global patent rights are a requirement for the creation of new medicines. Until the mid-1990s, drug makers could patent their products only in the wealthiest markets, while negotiating licenses that allowed companies in other parts of the world to make generic versions.
Even in that era, drug companies continued to innovate. And they continued to prosper even with the later waivers on H.I.V. drugs.
“At the time, it rattled a lot of people, like ‘How could you do that? It’s going to destroy the pharmaceutical industry,’” recalled Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser for the pandemic. “It didn’t destroy them at all. They continue to make billions of dollars.”
Leaders in the wealthiest Western nations have endorsed more equitable distribution of vaccines for this latest scourge. But the imperative to ensure ample supplies for their own nations has won out as the virus killed hundreds of thousands of their own people, devastated economies, and sowed despair.
The drug companies have also promised more support for poorer nations. AstraZeneca’s vaccine has been the primary supply for Covax, and the company says it has sold its doses at a nonprofit price.
stumbled, falling short of production targets. And producing the new class of mRNA vaccines, like those from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, is complicated.
Where pharmaceutical companies have struck deals with partners, the pace of production has frequently disappointed.
“Even with voluntary licensing and technology transfer, it’s not easy to make complex vaccines,” said Dr. Krishna Udayakumar, director of the Duke Global Health Innovation Center.
Much of the global capacity for vaccine manufacturing is already being used to produce other lifesaving inoculations, he added.
But other health experts accuse major pharmaceutical companies of exaggerating the manufacturing challenges to protect their monopoly power, and implying that developing countries lack the acumen to master sophisticated techniques is “an offensive and a racist notion,” said Matthew Kavanagh, director of the Global Health Policy and Politics Initiative at Georgetown University.
With no clear path forward, Ms. Okonjo-Iweala, the W.T.O. director-general, expressed hope that the Indian and South African patent-waiver proposal can be a starting point for dialogue.
“I believe we can come to a pragmatic outcome,” she said. “The disparity is just too much.”
Peter S. Goodman reported from London, Apoorva Mandavilli from New York, Rebecca Robbins from Bellingham, Wash., and Matina Stevis-Gridneff from Brussels. Noah Weiland contributed reporting from New York.
Spencer Ferguson Silver III was born on Feb. 6, 1941, in San Antonio. His father, Spencer Jr., was an accountant. His mother, Bernice (Wendt) Silver, was a secretary.
Spencer was a teenager in 1957 when the Soviet Union sent the first artificial satellite, Sputnik, into Earth’s orbit.
“His science teacher told the class, ‘All you guys are going to be engineers,’” his wife said in a phone interview.
Dr. Silver did not choose engineering or astrophysics. Instead, he graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1962. He earned a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of Colorado, Boulder, four years later. While there, he met Linda Martin, an undergraduate who was working part time in the chemistry department. They married in 1965.
He soon joined 3M as a senior chemist working on pressure-sensitive adhesives. During his 30 years at the company, he rose to the rank of corporate scientist. And while he worked on other projects involving branch block copolymers and immuno-diagnostics, none were part of popular successes like Post-it Notes.
The mating of Dr. Silver’s adhesive and Mr. Fry’s handmade adhesive notes was a hit with 3M secretaries. But 3M executives weren’t so sure.
A test release in 1977 of Press ‘n Peel, as the product was called, in four cities — Denver; Tulsa, Okla.; Tampa, Fla.; and Richmond, Va. — flopped with consumers, who were uncertain about the idea of repositionable paper squares. But the next year, 3M had greater success when it flooded offices in Boise, Idaho, with free samples; 90 percent of the recipients said they would buy them.
A man in Arizona builds his shrunken cars out of refrigerators, but you’d never know it by looking at them. In Washington State, a teacher built his car from a boat, and there’s no mistaking it. And in Ghana, a student built a car that looks like a ramshackle DeLorean — and if you guessed that he made it with junkyard scraps, you’d be right.
Their creations turn heads, bring smiles and get them around town, all because they see promise in materials most of us would never put to use in the garage.
Kelvin Odartei Cruickshank, who is 19 and lives in Accra, Ghana’s capital city, has had a passion for building machines since he was 10. “I started by building prototype or micro-machines such as vacuum cleaners, robots, cars, a helicopter, etc.,” he said in interviews that were conducted via email and WhatsApp.
He moved on to bigger machines and got to work building, from scratch, a two-person car made from scrap materials that cost around $200. It took three years to complete. Mr. Cruickshank used scrap metal and parts not normally used in cars because of financial constraints.
a 1928 Chevy two-door sedan. The car is less than four and a half feet high and is just nine feet long — about 70 percent the size of the original. The engine clocks in at 13 horsepower, with 12-inch pneumatic tires and a three-speed transmission “from a 1964 three-wheeled mail cart,” he said.
“I didn’t have room for a full-size car in the trailer park we lived in, nor money to buy one, so I built my own little car,” he said. The project used nine old refrigerators and “was a work in progress for eight years,” Mr. Adams said.
Dwarf Car Museum in Maricopa.
All of his cars draw looks.
“A man was beside me at a stoplight,” Mr. Adams said of a quick neighborhood jaunt in the Grandpa Dwarf. “He looked down at me and said, ‘Hey, man, where’d you get that, out of a crackerjack box?’”
Mr. Adams also recalled an officer stopping him on the highway. “When he came up to my door,” he said, “he got down on his knees and looked in the window at me and said, ‘Sir, this is the first time I ever had to get on my knees to talk to somebody in a car.’”
Mr. Lorentz, too, enjoys making people laugh. “I tell my students they need to think ‘outside the boat,’” he said.
“This is about getting the best, optimal delivery vehicle for us,” Mr. Wake said.
Globally, UPS operates a fleet of about 120,000 vehicles, and around 13,000 of them use alternatives to diesel engines such as batteries.
In addition to UPS, BlackRock and the South Korean automakers Hyundai and Kia have invested in Arrival.
Electric vehicle companies have attracted frenzied interest from investors, who hope to find the next Tesla, which is valued at more than $650 billion, more than G.M., Ford Motor, Toyota Motor and Volkswagen combined. Wall Street’s interest has encouraged a parade of fledgling companies — some, including Arrival, that are not yet selling vehicles, let alone making a profit — to list their shares on the stock exchange.
A few have already disappointed investors. The stock of Nikola, which is trying to develop heavy trucks powered by batteries and hydrogen fuel cells, plunged after a small investment firm, Hindenburg Research, said the company had exaggerated its technological abilities. Nikola denied wrongdoing but acknowledged in a February securities filing that some of what it had previously said about its vehicles and technology was inaccurate.
The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating Nikola and another company, Lordstown Motors, which aims to make electric pickup trucks. Hindenburg also published a report about Lordstown, accusing it of exaggerating interest in its trucks and its production abilities. Lordstown denies Hindenburg’s claims.
Many E.V. start-ups have acquired stock listings by merging with special purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs — businesses set up with a pot of cash and a stock listing. Such mergers allow start-ups to join the stock market without the scrutiny of an initial public offering of stock.
Arrival completed its merger with a SPAC in March. But it remains a long way from turning its vision into a viable business. It has assembled a few prototype vans but has not yet begun testing them on public roads. The company’s shares started trading on March 25 at $22.40 but have since fallen to about $14.
The age of electric planes may still be years away, but the fight for that market is already heating up.
Wisk Aero, a start-up developing an electric aircraft that takes off like a helicopter and flies like a plane, on Tuesday sued another start-up, Archer Aviation, accusing it of stealing trade secrets and infringing on Wisk’s patents.
The lawsuit brings into public view a dispute between two little-known companies in a business that has become a playground for billionaires. It also entangles giants of aviation and technology. Wisk is a joint venture of Boeing and Kitty Hawk, which is financed by Larry Page, who co-founded Google. Archer’s investors include United Airlines, which is a major Boeing customer and plans to buy up to 200 aircraft from the start-up.
The niche market for electric vehicles and planes has become frenzied in recent months as so-called blank check companies, which have little more than a stock market listing and a pot of cash, have snapped up fledgling businesses with little or no revenue, let alone profits. Investors in the blank-check firms — formally known as special purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs — are hoping to acquire businesses that they believe could follow Tesla’s recent trajectory on the stock market. To entice those investors, start-ups like Archer promise top-notch technology and optimistic business plans.
the lawsuit accuses two engineers of downloading thousands of files containing confidential designs and data before leaving Wisk to join Archer. Wisk accused a third engineer of wiping history of his activities from his computer before leaving for Archer.
“Wisk brings this lawsuit to stop a brazen theft of its intellectual property and confidential information and protect the substantial investment of resources and years of hard work and effort of its employees and their vision of the future in urban air transportation,” the lawsuit says.
Archer denied wrongdoing.
“It’s regrettable that Wisk would engage in litigation in an attempt to deflect from the business issues that have caused several of its employees to depart,” Archer said in a statement. “The plaintiff raised these matters over a year ago, and after looking into them thoroughly, we have no reason to believe any proprietary Wisk technology ever made its way to Archer. We intend to defend ourselves vigorously.”
Archer also said it had placed an employee accused in the suit on paid leave “in connection with a government investigation and a search warrant issued to the employee, which we believe are focused on conduct prior to the employee joining the company.” Archer said it and three employees who had worked with the individual had been subpoenaed in that investigation and were cooperating with the authorities.
accused one of its former employees and Uber of stealing trade secrets to gain an advantage in the race to develop autonomous cars. The companies settled the case in 2018, and the former Waymo employee, Anthony Levandowski, a onetime confidant of Mr. Page’s, was sentenced in 2020 to 18 months in prison. Former President Donald J. Trump pardoned Mr. Levandowski in January.
Archer announced its merger in February with a SPAC, Atlas Crest Investment, in a deal that valued the company at $3.8 billion. Wisk said its suspicions were confirmed at that time when Archer released a presentation that contained designs similar to those in a Wisk patent filing.
when announcing the transaction.
“We had 35, 40 people on this — and we attacked this like venture growth would or anybody else,” Mr. Moelis said. “And we did it fast, too.”
A spokeswoman for Moelis declined to comment.
Other companies trying to make electric aircraft include Joby Aviation, which announced a $6.6 billion deal with a SPAC led by the LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman in February, and the German start-up Lilium, which went public last month by merging with a SPAC led by a former General Motors executive, Barry Engle.
according to SPAC Research — more than in all of 2020.
But regulators and some investors say more scrutiny is needed. The Securities and Exchange Commission published two notices last month warning companies considering merging with SPACs to ensure that they are ready for all the legal and regulatory requirements being a public company entails. Many investors known as short sellers, who specialize in betting that share prices of companies are bound to fall, have targeted SPACs like Atlas Crest, which is among the 20 most-shorted SPACs.
The market for electric aircraft is in its infancy but holds huge promise. The prospect of “Jetsons”-like flying vehicles has inched closer to reality in recent years thanks to advances in battery and aircraft design. A high-stakes race to build the first viable electric plane is underway, and some airlines are betting that such vehicles can help them reach their goals of eliminating or offsetting their greenhouse gas emissions.
Scott Kirby, the chief executive of United, said the Archer aircraft were unlikely to be used for commercial flights but were ideal for short trips to and from an airport.
“They’re not only more environmentally friendly, they’re far quieter than a helicopter,” Mr. Kirby said Tuesday during an event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations. “And, because they have 12 rotors, they’re, I believe, going to ultimately be safer.”
Still, widespread use of electric air taxis is likely years away. Such aircraft may never become more than a luxury used by very rich people because businesses and governments may come up with far cheaper ways to transport people without emissions.
Bruce Meyers, who used his skills as a boat builder to invent the first fiberglass dune buggy, igniting the late-1960s craze for off-road riding, and thrived until copycats flooded the market, died on Feb. 19 at his home in Valley Center, Calif. He was 94.
The cause was myelodysplastic syndrome, a blood cancer, said his wife, Winnifred (Baxter) Meyers.
Mr. Meyers’s invention got a big promotional boost after he and a friend drove the Meyers Manx (named for the cat with a stub of a tail) to a time record over nearly 1,000 miles of the rough roads of the Baja California Peninsula in 1967. The victory proved the vehicle’s viability and made an aging beach boy the darling of off-road devotees.
“Go back to the lifestyle I lived when I came into this thing,” he said in a 2017 interview with Motorward, an automotive website. “It wasn’t about higher learning or education, but just about having fun.”
Mr. Meyers was a surfer in Southern California with a fine-arts education who in the late 1950s and early ’60s watched four-wheel-drive Jeeps struggle for traction on sand dunes.
he told The National, an newspaper in Abu Dhabi, in 2012. “Maybe my instincts when I was creating the dune buggy were guided by my memories.”
For 18 months, he worked in his small garage in Newport Beach to create the Meyers Manx. He removed a Beetle’s body, shortened its floor section, then bolted on a one-piece fiberglass shell (with fenders, sides and a front hood area) that was moldable and lightweight but sturdy.
He completed the Beetle-turned-Manx in 1964, making it light and quick, with a shorter turning radius and greater traction than the dune buggies that preceded his. He named his creation Old Red for its paint job.
A cover article in Road & Track, which chronicled the wild Baja adventure, jump-started orders for the kits. But demand eventually overwhelmed the ability of Mr. Meyers’s company to produce the kits —- he insisted that he was not a businessman — and rivals made knockoffs of his design.
Mr. Meyers turned out more than 5,000 kits, but it was estimated that at least 20 times as many faux Meyers Manxes were produced. He lost a legal fight against a copycat manufacturer to uphold his patent on a “sand vehicle.” In 1971, he shut down B.F. Meyers & Company.
“It took 10 years before I could hear the words ‘dune buggy’ and not get furious,” he told Car and Driver in 2006.
And almost three decades before he returned to the business.
Bruce Franklin Meyers was born in Los Angeles on March 12, 1926. His father, John, helped set up car dealerships for Henry Ford. His mother, Peggy, was a song plugger.
Mr. Meyers dropped out of high school to join the merchant marine and volunteered for the Navy during World War II. He was serving aboard the aircraft carrier Bunker Hill when it was attacked by two Japanese kamikaze aircraft on May 11, 1945, near Okinawa. He recalled jumping into the water as the burning carrier started to sink; he gave a sailor his life jacket and helped a badly burned pilot until they were rescued by a destroyer hours later.
In the carnage, 346 sailors and airmen died, 264 were wounded and 43 were missing.
“I spent almost a month coming back with a skeleton crew, pulling the dead men out of the ship,” Mr. Meyers told The National.
Manx 2+2 and the Manx SR.
The couple sold the company in November to Trousdale Ventures, an investment firm.
“He was 94,” Winnie Meyers said by phone, “and I had to stop.”
1964 Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe CSX2287) inducted into the National Historic Vehicle Register, an eight-year-old project detailing the historic and cultural significance of American vehicles. The register is a collaboration between the Historic Vehicle Association, an owner group, and the Department of the Interior.
In a nod to Mr. Meyers’s ingenuity and his business woes, the register said the Meyers Manx was “the inspiration for over 250,000 similar cars manufactured by other companies, and is thus the most replicated car in history.”