New Global Coalition Aims to Stop Future Epidemics with New Vaccines

A new coalition created by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other global partners will launch at this year’s World Economic Forum, with the goal of supporting the fast-tracked development of new vaccines.

On January 19, a new coalition aiming to drive vaccine innovation will launch at the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland. Dubbed the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), the new effort aims to fight the global problem of infectious diseases.

Vaccines are largely credited with the prevention of infectious disease outbreaks around the world in the 20th century. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) attributes the development and mass administration of vaccines for largely eradicating polio, smallpox, measles, diphtheria, pertussis, and other viruses in the United States. With vaccination, millions of lives are saved each year and the World Health Organization (WHO) notes that thanks to recent breakthroughs the world may soon have the vaccines to prevent more outbreaks of Ebola and the Zika virus.

To respond to infectious disease epidemics quickly, WHO officials developed the Research and Development Blueprint for Action to Prevent Epidemics, a worldwide effort to strengthen emergency response efforts to outbreaks and fast track new medical technologies and vaccines. In support of the global need for new vaccines, which are often needed swiftly to fight deadly disease epidemics, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the government of India, the Wellcome Trust, and the World Economic Forum have partnered to create CEPI. The group points to the development of an Ebola vaccine, as proof that new vaccines can be created much faster than they have in the past with support from a global coalition.

Global health reforms and better biomedical countermeasures are just some of the changes needed to create better, faster vaccines, notes a recent summary from CEPI. “Vaccines can play a critical role in containing epidemics to help avert humanitarian crises, but the safe and effective vaccines we need aren’t being developed quickly enough,” says the coalition. “The risks and costs of development, always significant, are especially great for epidemic diseases. Outbreaks come and go, and hit poor countries the hardest, straining already fragile health systems. Trials are particularly complex to conduct, and market potential is often limited. When a vaccine is developed, complex regulations and laws that vary from country to country can delay getting vaccines to people who desperately need them.”

The group also credits the public health response to the Ebola outbreak for creating partnerships between the private, public, and philanthropic sectors, but that even this level of outreach was not fast enough to prevent the more than 11,000 Ebola-related deaths that have hit West Africa countries since 2014. CEPI officials aim to create a system to advance new safe, effective, and affordable vaccines to fight emerging infectious diseases with a partnership of public, private, philanthropic and civil organizations. Market incentives don’t do enough to encourage vaccine development, they say, noting that the coalition will work to develop new vaccines before epidemics begin.

With the official launch of CEPI in a few short weeks, the group’s recent newsletter notes that it has already taken part in meetings to discuss aspects of vaccine development regulatory pathways, platform technologies, clinical trial networks and stockpiles, showing that the coalition has tasked itself with an ambitious role to help spur the creation of new vaccines. “CEPI will take an end-to-end approach—we won’t take on discovery research or vaccine delivery, but we will work through all the steps in between. We will stay abreast of new discoveries and technologies, and we’ll work with other organizations to make sure any vaccines that are developed reach those who need them. Equitable access will be a founding principle of CEPI, so that vaccines developed with its support are available to all who need them–price should not be a barrier–and they are available to populations with the most need.”