Bug battle plan
GSK hoping a government funded unit will battle infectious diseases threats
Tired of waiting for the international community to organize proactive responses to the threats posed by emerging infectious diseases, GlaxoSmithKline plc has developed plans and is soliciting government support to create a permanent, independent entity dedicated to developing vaccines to protect against pathogens that could become mass killers.
The concept was created as a result of GSK's frustrations over flaws in responses to the pandemic influenza and Ebola outbreaks. And more recent events have further dramatized the importance of acting on the longstanding need to conduct sustained vaccine R&D targeting infectious pathogens that could create public health disasters.
The U.S. Congress's inability to allocate funding to fight an imminent threat like the Zika virus exemplifies the failures of governments around the world to act on lessons from a string of catastrophic experiences and near misses involving once-obscure infectious diseases. Those lessons include the essential role of multinational pharmaceutical companies, as well as the need for creative public policies to engage drug developers because creating products for emerging infectious diseases is not commercially attractive.
GSK's idea is to mitigate the need for commercial returns by paying for R&D in advance, and to reduce opportunity costs by assigning dedicated staff to the effort rather than diverting scientists and executives from other responsibilities in response to recurring crises.
GSK has discussed its plan to create a BioPreparedness Organization (BPO) with national governments, international governmental organizations like the U.N. and philanthropies, and has set aside space for the initiative on its new vaccines campus in Rockville, Md., near government medical countermeasures research and funding agencies.
The idea is to use GSK's expertise and technologies to develop vaccines as far as Phase I, to produce sufficient quantities of candidate vaccines for large clinical trials or emergency deployment, and