Vaccine Development Can Be Spurred With $2 Billion Infusion, Experts Say
Global health experts are calling for at least $2 billion in seed money to spur vaccine development against diseases including Ebola, MERS, SARS, West Nile virus and Lyme disease.
The fund would help bridge the gap between early stage vaccine discovery in academic, government and small biotechnology laboratories and clinical development by larger pharmaceutical companies. It would pay to manufacture vaccines to FDA standards, Phase 1 clinical trials and necessary proof-of-concept.
Currently, four major drugmakers — GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Pfizer and Sanofi Pasteur —focus on vaccine development, down from more than 20 in the 1970s.
The cost to develop a vaccine ranges from $500 million to $1 billion based on complexity and only about 7 percent of development projects result in a licensed vaccine, the experts say.
At the very least, the seed money would allow for efficacy assessments of new vaccines helping to avoid a repeat of the Ebola crisis, where only one candidate went through a Phase 1 trial before eventually being abandoned.
In addition to new vaccines, the fund could be used to improve the effectiveness of existing vaccines, such as those for influenza, the experts write in the New England Journal of Medicine. Efforts to improve vaccines are stymied by large, costly safety and efficacy studies.
The experts — Sanofi advisor Stanley Plotkin, Princeton University’s Adel Mahmoud and Wellcome Trust Director Jeremy Farrar — envision the fund being used to solicit competitive proposals from scientists, institutions and biotech firms, with an independent panel of scientists and funders reviewing applications for financial support. — Kellen Owings