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Ebola Highlights Importance of Vaccine Development in Protecting Global Health

October 15, 2014
The current Ebola crisis shows how government regulators and research institutions, global health organizations, and biopharmaceutical research companies can work collaboratively and efficiently to speed the development of novel vaccines and therapeutics in response to an urgent global health problem. Yet just as importantly, it underscores the need to move innovation forward before a crisis breaks out in order to prevent illness and suffering, and save the lives of countless people around the world.

Vaccines are one of the most important medical interventions of all time, enabling and underlying the practice of modern medicine as we know it. Preventative vaccines have wiped out diseases that used to be among the most common and lethal childhood infections, in addition to preventing widespread outbreaks of pneumococcal infection, pertussis and many others.

Furthermore, vaccine developers of all sizes are currently conducting research and development in vaccines that will prevent a range of significant infectious diseases. Given the diversity of bacterial infections and continuing growth and evolution of antibiotic-resistance, a broader discovery approach that includes new treatment and prevention are needed. Some vaccines in development could be included as routine immunizations for children and adolescents, such as meningococcal virus type B. Other developers are in partnerships with the US government on vaccines for universal influenza. Many companies have vaccines in their pipeline to help prevent significant global health problems, such as malaria and dengue fever. The last area of increased research is in vaccines to prevent healthcare-acquired infections, such as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus or MRSA.

Support Needed for the Development of Vaccines

We must not take vaccine development for granted – we need to ensure that the US is creating policies that continue to encourage the discovery, development and the delivery of new vaccines.

Successful vaccine development requires public-private partnerships between industry and academia, and support from government and non-governmental organizations to fuel the drug development process. Emerging companies can then work with pharmaceutical companies that have the resources to conduct late-stage clinical trials, broad-scale manufacturing capabilities and global distribution networks to deliver life-saving vaccines worldwide.

With the right mix of collaboration, investment and incentives, promising early stage vaccine research can move forward and prevent future crises similar to what see with today’s Ebola outbreak.

Additionally, expanding incentives for the development of new vaccines could positively impact the prevention and treatment of many of the illnesses caused by antibiotic resistant pathogens in healthcare settings, including MRSA, Clostridium difficile and Group B Streptococcus.

21st Century Cures Initiative

This is why we are so pleased that Congresswoman Renee Ellmers (R-NC) recently hosted a roundtable today in Raleigh to discuss how to expedite the delivery of life-saving vaccines with leading national, regional and local health care innovators from the government, private and public sectors.

The roundtable is one of many being held across the country as part of the 21st Century Cures Initiative. The U.S. House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee launched the initiative – led by Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) – to engage in a national public health discussion devoted to identifying ideas for delivering the next generation of cures and treatments.

The 21st Century Cures Initiative is a call to action, and the global biopharma industry will answer by continuing our commitment to expediting the delivery of vaccines. The biopharma industry in North Carolina will support innovative research and development with a robust academic community, NIH research funding, and venture capital investments.

In addition, North Carolina is well positioned to lead the way in advanced vaccine manufacturing. Internationally recognized companies such as Merck and Novartis have each already invested more than a billion dollars in vaccine manufacturing facilities in North Carolina and global biopharmaceutical leader Pfizer is working to help launch innovative new vaccine products at its major vaccine manufacturing facility in Sanford, North Carolina. Collectively, North Carolina’s vaccine assets make the State one of the best locations in the country for the discovery, development and advanced manufacturing of new vaccine products.

We want to thank Reps. Ellmers, for her leadership in working to highlight the importance of vaccines in protecting the public health. This is an extremely important issue that needs to be addressed, and as a nurse, there are few that understand the importance more.

We look forward to working with Congresswoman Ellmers and all stakeholders to prevent suffering and save countless lives through the development of innovative vaccines.

Jim Greenwood, President and CEO, Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO)
Samuel Taylor, President, North Carolina Biosciences Organization (NCBIO)