Establishing a Global Vaccine-Development Fund
As the Ebola epidemic in West Africa continues, albeit at a much lower level than it reached in the spring, we still lack a vaccine that has been shown to be safe and effective.
Vaccine development is facing a crisis for three reasons: the complexity of the most challenging targets, which necessitates substantial investment of capital and human expertise; the diminishing numbers of vaccine manufacturers able to devote the necessary resources to research, development, and production; and the prevailing business model, which prioritizes the development of vaccines with a large market potential.
Much attention has appropriately been directed at major disease targets such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), tuberculosis, and malaria, for which organizations such as the National Institutes of Health, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Wellcome Trust are providing considerable financial support. Similar attention has been devoted to the provision of currently licensed pediatric vaccines, which is supported by GAVI (formerly the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization).
Thus, the pharmaceutical industry's enthusiasm for vaccine development has dropped well below the levels seen in the 1980s and 1990s. The ClinicalTrials.gov website shows that only a minority of trials of vaccines against new infectious disease targets are sponsored by major vaccine companies and that the total number of trials is not increasing.