I will be talking more about how the H1N1 pandemic was exploited to greatly expand the use of vaccines, in the near future. This January 28, 2007 article by Daniel Costello in the LA Times provides important background on this whole issue, and begins to unravel the interconnected roles of large charitable organizations and big Pharma to make this happen.
Breakthroughs in technology, increased funding and higher profits are spurring a boom in vaccine discovery and development that could save or improve the lives of millions of people by attacking such scourges as cancer and malaria.
Three new vaccines arrived on the market in 2006, the most in a single year. They include vaccines for the human papillomavirus, linked to cervical cancer, and for rotavirus, which causes severe diarrhea and kills 600,000 children globally each year. Another prevents shingles in the elderly.
As early as the end of the decade, scientists say, there may be new immunizationsagainst herpes simplex and rheumatoid arthritis and a better seasonal influenza vaccine.
Researchers also are talking about a potential vaccine within five years to fight malaria — long one of mankind’s deadliest and most elusive adversaries.
Other scientists are making progress with what are known as therapeutic vaccines, which fight already diagnosed diseases or conditions, including cancer and Alzheimer’s, or addictions to substances such as nicotine, by “teaching” the body to fight back. They’re further down the road but hold the potential to transform medical care, experts say.
“It may turn out we have a perfect storm here of several different things coming together at the right time. This is a tremendous time of opportunity for both the developed and the developing world,” said David Fleming, director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s global health strategies program, which has made vaccine development and access a cornerstone of its mission.
“It’s clear there is a renaissance going on around vaccines,” said Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “We have made more progress with some [vaccines] in the past few years than we have in the past 30.”
The current immunization boom could rival or even surpass the Golden Age of vaccine development between the late 1940s and early 1960s, experts say, when scientists such as Jonas Salk discovered inoculations for polio, flu, mumps and measles. But relatively few vaccines were found in the decades that followed, partly due to lack of profitability for drug companies and reduced vaccine research funding.
Perhaps the best evidence of a vaccine revival is that the pharmaceutical industry is returning to the market.
… Jean Stephenne, president of GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals, expects his company to have five new vaccines in the next five years and that its vaccine business will grow from 6% of the company’s sales this year to 14% by 2010.
Overall, the number of vaccines in development has risen from 285 in 1996 to 450 today.
Drug executives say they can charge considerably more for today’s vaccines — up to several hundred dollars or more — versus a few dollars for older vaccines.
… But Greene said major recent advances in vaccine technology had made finds considered unattainable a decade ago look possible. [Although the term is never used in this article, what is really meant by “recent advances” is the potential use of novel adjuvants, which have been around for awhile but never looked close to widespread usage before the carefully orchestrated pandemic response of 2009.–Nass]