For all the talk of new vaccines, not much attention has been paid to the need for better adjuvants, which have remained stuck on alum-based products for decades. The NIH is committing up to $70 million over the next 5 years to new adjuvant research and wants to prod industry to pick up the mantle and develop a diverse portfolio of agents. But it will need to persuade companies that in the long run, pooling their knowledge will be commercially worthwhile.
The NIH's goal is to have a toolbox of adjuvants that can boost vaccine efficacy, increase response rates in the elderly and extend the supply of critical vaccines for public health. Adjuvants increase the magnitude and duration of vaccine-induced protective immunity by stimulating aspects of the immune system-such as the innate response-that have evolved to respond to infections.
Historically, companies have lacked an incentive to develop adjuvants as products in and of themselves because the returns were so poor. Instead, they have generally developed antigens and adjuvants together within specific vaccine programs.
Novartis AG spokesperson Elizabeth Power told SciBX, "At Novartis, we do not develop adjuvants separately from antigens but rather consider the precise combination of the proper antigens and adjuvant targeting a specific disease. Then, the value of the vaccine can be demonstrated through overall safety and efficacy."
In other cases, when companies do develop proprietary adjuvants, they tend to retain them within their internal programs and rarely license them out.