U.S. health officials have taken some of the lessons they learned during the swine flu pandemic to heart. And now they're taking action to prevent a recurrence of crucial problems that slowed vaccine development projects last fall.
The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta is spending $2 billion to improve vaccine technology with an eye to cutting the amount of time between the development and production of a new vaccine. CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden says that the government wants to develop new tools to optimize the strains identified for making a vaccine, a key bottleneck that slowed scientists involved in the round-the-clock effort to make a new swine flu vaccine. And they want a new approach to identify the correct amount of antigen in a vaccine, another problem that emerged in the pandemic.
"We want new technologies, we want game changers, but we should also tweak what we've got now to be able to make a big difference today," Frieden told reporters. The President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology has also stepped up with a few new suggestions of its own.
PCAST wants to see new and improved vaccine production facilities, with new incentives for improved machinery. Improving potency assays "should be a high-priority effort," according to an in-PharmaTechnologist report, while new incubation technology could shave a week off the process.