Although routine vaccinations have seen great success, there is a new challenge ahead. The future of vaccines lies in preventing infectious diseases and antimicrobial resistance. Vaccines can be expensive to develop and produce, but that cost is far less than that of dealing with an outbreak after it has occurred.
Dr. Rajeev Venkayya, President of the Vaccine Business Unit at Takeda Pharmaceuticals, sat down with Devex to discuss the importance of investing in vaccines at the World Health Assembly in Geneva. He has had experience as the senior director of biodefense at the White House and as the director of global health delivery at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation before he began his role at Takeda in the global vaccine sector. He has taken on these roles in order to make an impact he says. Dr. Venkayya realizes that emerging infectious diseases are becoming a greater threat and believes that with proper investment, vaccines could be a lifesaving, preventive measure to many outbreaks.
In the interview, he shared some of his thoughts about the key challenges in the vaccine industry today:
“As we’ve seen with Ebola, it’s really hard to come up with a new vaccine to protect the population. Usually people want a vaccine more than anything else when these things come up. It really takes a long time to develop a vaccine. One of the biggest challenges is getting a pipeline in place and having a regulatory framework that allows you to quickly go from a candidate through full clinical development — from preclinical through phase three or at least into human centers and emergency authorization. CEPI [the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations] is, I think, largely intended to help address that, although I don’t know if that will be sufficient.
The other big risk is around antimicrobial resistance, and here, vaccines could be a very important tool that could really save us. In the case of AMR, the good news is we have some programs which are tackling resistant bacteria of interest. But there are a number that are uncovered, unaddressed, so we probably need more research and development there.
I think the other issue that cuts across all areas of development is regulatory science and the long expensive process necessary to demonstrate that vaccines are safe and efficacious. We need to find ways to compress that, particularly in diseases where the epidemiology makes it hard to conduct a large clinical trial to show that your product is working. The perfect example here is Ebola, where it became very difficult, if not impossible, to conduct a phase three clinical trial with the Ebola vaccine because there wasn’t any Ebola happening. People don’t necessarily automatically appreciate this, but you have to have the disease if you want to be able to show that a vaccine is working.”
Read the full interview here.