The San Jose Mercury News this weekend published an op-ed by Paul Chaplin, the CEO of Bavarian Nordic and a co-chair of the Alliance for Biosecurity which discussed the continuing need to develop an Ebola vaccine – as well as continued federal investments in the programs which fund such research. As Dr. Chaplin notes, all of the Ebola drug and vaccine candidates currently in development have received U.S. federal funding.
Why do medical countermeasures against threats like Ebola need federal investment? Dr. Chaplin notes that, despite the $2.5 billion price-tag to develop a new drug, there is no viable commercial market for medical countermeasures against such threats. What to do about it?
So, if governments want private companies to invest in developing drugs and vaccines for diseases such as Ebola, Marburg, smallpox and pandemic flu, they must take the risk out of that investment by providing development funding, demonstrating a government procurement market and providing clear regulatory pathways.
Fortunately, such programs are already in place – and have resulted in the current pipeline of potential Ebola vaccines and treatments in development, including a prime-boost vaccine candidate that Bavarian Nordic, in partnership with Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, has now begun testing in human clinical trials.
Funding for such programs, however, has been inadequate and sporadic, and Congress has an opportunity to act to strengthen such programs:
Ebola is fading from the headlines, but the outbreak is far from over, and Congress should recognize the enormous effect a licensed vaccine or therapeutic drug could have. Now is the time to double down on what has worked — public-private partnerships through BARDA and the BioShield fund — by providing robust and sustained funding for advanced development, manufacturing and procurement of medical countermeasures for the range of biological threats.
As U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice said, “Today the danger is Ebola, tomorrow it could be another flu outbreak or a terrorist armed with a biological weapon.”
Read the full piece here.