In 2020, huge progress was made in understanding the COVID-19 virus, its transmission patterns, and what was needed to develop an effective vaccine. These developments would not have been possible had Chinese authorities not shared the full sequence of the COVID genome with the world in early January 2020. However, since that initial open sharing, the situation has become more complicated. More recently, scientists have called for more open sharing of the genomes of the virus’s variants to enable swift responses to them. Issues pertaining to IP rights, recognition and acknowledgement of others’ research, and the privacy of individuals are currently impeding a more ‘open’ approach at a global level.