Congress pitched on vaccine business model

Attempting to bust the oft-frustrating venture-funded biotech business model, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center CEO Jeffrey Romoff testified before congress last week, proposing a public/private model for vaccine production. The idea centers on a nonprofit partnership that would build a facility incorporating single-use technologies to produce not just prophylactics for pandemic disease, but also bioterror countermeasures.

Romoff told a Senate appropriations subcommittee that traditional business approaches "have not yielded the biologics, vaccines and countermeasures required." Universities, he said, lack the ability to bring great ideas to market, and drug companies do not see the government--essentially the sole customer of pandemic and bioterror vaccines--as "a predictable partner in this enterprise."

Hence his proposal for a public/private partnership within the HHS Biomedical Advance Research and Development Authority for a flexible, multi-product medical countermeasures development and manufacturing facility, capable of making multiple products concurrently in different suites, using disposable technology "that can easily be changed depending on the needs and requirements of the government," Romoff says in testimony. All suites could be converted to the manufacture of a single product in the event of a bioterror attack.

- here's Romoff's testimony