Global Health Concerns Create Business Opportunities - Pharmaceutical Technology

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Global Health Concerns Create Business Opportunities
Health crises generate support for new vaccines and treatments for diseases found in developing nations.

Pharmaceutical Technology
Volume 33, Issue 9, pp. 26-32

Broader impact

Vaccine makers are parlaying the current demand surge into new production and distribution. Sanofi Pasteur gained FDA licensure for its new Swiftwater, Pennsylvania, vaccine-manufacturing facility earlier this year. Chinese manufacturers have geared up to expand flu-vaccine production at home, GSK recently opened a large vaccine production facility in Singapore that is slated to begin commercial production of pneumococcal conjugate vaccine in 2011.

Demand for pandemic flu vaccine also has spurred the development of novel antigens and testing standards. Earlier this year, FDA scientists unveiled a new antigenic fingerprinting approach for testing the potential protective activity of vaccines under development. Vaccine makers developing cell-based manufacturing technology for the influenza vaccine, the long-desired approach for accelerating seasonal flu-vaccine production.

A squeeze on funding

Despite significant increases in funding for global health during the past decade, international health officials fear a major budget squeeze. A May 2009 Institute of Medicine report recommends nearly doubling US financial commitments to global health to $15 billion per year by 2012. The panel urges US academic institutions and biomedical companies to help strengthen research and medical infrastructure in other nations and to support patent pooling and the open exchange of information and tools to spur research.

Unfortunately, the US may be hard-pressed to maintain the current level of funding for global health. In May, the Obama administration unveiled a $63-billion, six-year global initiative to combat AIDS, TB, malaria, and other health problems that affect developing countries. The initiative aims to build on the current $48-billion, five-year funding plan for the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which has been praised for slowing the rising death rate from AIDS in Africa and poor nations. Obama's broader and longer funding plan, however, may reduce the annual budget for PEPFAR and other international health programs.

White House policy advisor Gayle Smith acknowledged funding shortfalls at a July meeting sponsored by the Kaiser Family Foundation. She emphasized the need to assess how money is spent and to combine government resources with private funding before trying to "grow the numbers."

The funding decline is squeezing resources at public–private partnerships just as they are poised to harvest the rewards of more than a decade of research efforts. A study by the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Associations in 2007 estimated that full testing and registration of those projects now in public–private partnership pipelines would require $8.3 billion in funding, but that less than $1 billion was available. The situation has generated interest in market-incentive strategies and increased calls for newly industrialized nations such as China and India to invest more in disease research that stands to benefit their nations.

Jill Wechsler is Pharmaceutical Technology's Washington editor, 7715 Rocton Ave., Chevy Chase, MD 20815, tel. 301.656.4634,


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