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DBT triggers coalition to innovate on vaccine development for epidemics

India is steering an international fight against epidemic as a crucial member of the newly formed Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.
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The global alliance including governments, industry, philanthropy, academia, civil society and other global health stakeholders aims to develop new vaccines to stop future epidemics from becoming public health emergencies.
Headquartered in Norwegian Institute for Public Health, in Oslo, the alliance is in its start-up phase and is operating with an interim governance structure with an interim Board and an interim Secretariat.

Professor K VijayRaghavan, Secretary, Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology, India who has been chosen as the Chairperson of the interim board pointed out that the coalition will focus on diseases that have the potential for causing outbreaks rather than on common diseases.

Formed in response to calls of several high-profile expert reports to address global R&D gaps for pandemic preparedness and global health security in the wake of the Ebola crisis, CEPI will not focus on diseases that already have sufficient attention, but will be guided by WHO’s R&D blueprint (2016), which lists eleven illnesses to focus on, including Chikungunya, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic fever.

For known and as yet unknown diseases, vaccines offer the potential to be deployed rapidly and on scale to prevent both disease and its further transmission. India, represented by the Ministries of Science and Technologies and Health and Family Welfare, intends to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with governments and agencies, such as the World Health Organization, the Wellcome Trust and others to develop the strategies for partnerships, technical development, regulatory and ethical approaches and find the resources and commitments needed for the coalition.

A new approach to vaccine development
The Ebola epidemic exposed serious flaws in the world’s capacity to prepare for, and respond to, infectious disease outbreaks. While the Ebola crisis stimulated unprecedented ad-hoc collaboration to develop and test vaccines in just one year, even this was too slow to prevent the loss of thousands of lives and billions of dollars in economic costs. This model is also unsustainable. Like Ebola, many known infections most likely to cause a public health emergency could be contained with vaccines, but no tested vaccine is available or advanced in development. There are many barriers to vaccine development – including scientific and technological challenges, issues with clinical trial design, logistics and liability, and unpredictable commercial incentives or pathways to regulatory approval. All can deter investment. In order to overcome these barriers a new and comprehensive approach towards vaccine development, so that the world is prepared for epidemic threats and is ready to respond quickly.

A galvanizing force
CEPI will galvanize the development of new vaccines against diseases with the potential to cause a serious epidemic. CEPI will provide a framework for financing and otherwise supporting the development of vaccines that protect against known epidemic threats and advance vaccine candidates so safety and immune response are proved in principle before epidemics begin, so full trials or emergency deployment can begin swiftly in an outbreak. It will also build development and production capabilities and partnerships that we can leverage quickly to address new and unanticipated epidemic threat and work with industry, other product developers, academia, regulators and other bodies to ensure any vaccines developed get licensed and reach those who need them most.

The road ahead
Founded by the governments of Norway and India (The Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology; The Indian Council of Medical Research and The Department of Health and Family Welfare of the Ministry of Health) , the Wellcome Trust, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Economic Forum in collaboration with industry, other governments, foundations, regulatory bodies, civil society and the World Health Organization, CEPI will launch with a core group of investors and partners early in 2017.

It has enlisted top global experts to a target list of vaccines for development. The group will use the priority diseases listed in the WHO’s R&D Blueprint as a starting point for identifying diseases against which vaccines are most feasible.

CEPI is seeking investments from government’s foundations and other donors and intends to issue its first request for proposals early November 2016 to start a process to identify its first tranche of investments in the spring of 2017.

It is still confirming funding requirements, donors and commitment levels, but is initially targeting an annual budget of a couple of hundred million of dollars a year.

Peter Piot, Director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has been chosen as the Vice Chairperson of the broad.