European Union prepares to back vaccine stability project

Increased investment in vaccines for the developing world has begun to protect people against some major diseases, but has also exposed weaknesses in logistics. Last month, GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) teamed up with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to tackle part of the problem, and now Europe is preparing to back its own project.

The European Union (EU) began looking for a solution to vaccine instability earlier this year, and is now nearing the end of its search. A decision is expected next month, after which the EU will commit $3 million to support development of the vaccine temperature stability project. Details of the chosen program are yet to emerge, but the EU is confident is has already found a novel approach with a lot of potential.

"I can say that the jury has found a contribution which has a new way of thinking when it comes to a solution and the potential to eliminate the need for cooling during the transportation of the vaccines. But it's also a new technology which has not been tried out to a large extent yet," Jeremy Bray of the European Commission's research and innovation directorate told EurActiv.

Success of the EU project--or GSK's adjuvant stability work--could eliminate one of the barriers to getting vaccines to people, particularly in poor, rural areas. Charities have tried various approaches to extend the cold chain, but while insulated packaging can help to an extent, making vaccines more heat-tolerant would have a bigger effect. The current situation is hampering the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). 

"We will get the vaccines there, but we have to spend more resources trying to keep the vaccines cold which we could have spent on something else. Vaccines have different levels of sensitivity so for different vaccines for example against lung infections, we have to throw away 50%," UNICEF project support officer Eva Dalekant told Swedish TV station SVT.

- here's the EurActiv article