BioSpectrum Asia|June 2020

The long road till commercial availability compelling sustained funding at unprecedented levels. Combined with the $ 2 billion outlay expected from GAVI / CEPI and various government institutions and alliances across the globe, the total economic interest invested in this research would be at a never-before-seen or imagined level.
Manasee Kurlekar

One of the most obvious positive fallout of this COVID-19 pandemic has been the tremendous increase in focus on, and funding for, vaccines. When COVID-19 first broke out in China in December 2019, the number of influenza vaccines under research and discovery were about 15. At that level, this was still higher by several times compared to two decades ago.

Vaccines have traditionally always lagged behind drug discovery as a favoured area of research for the pharma and biotech sector as a whole. The reasons are many, starting from the time and investment needed for the research and discovery. Before the COVID-19 pandemic and current feverish pace of the race to find the vaccine against it, the 2015 ZIKA vaccine held the record for the shortest time taken from initiation to completion of trials – seven months. Add to this the cumbersome process of production which would take years to produce sufficient doses for the affected populations: the ZIKA pandemic had already fizzled out before large scale commercial production could be achieved.

This leads to the most critical economic aspect of the process - the uncertainty surrounding the final take-up of the vaccine by populations. It is not surprising therefore that the funding for them has grown primarily through sources from government institutions like BARDA and charity outfits like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, via the critical role executed by organisations like Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and GAVI (Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation), the vaccine alliance.


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June 2020