Sanofi, Gates Foundation and IDRI team up to improve vaccine development process

In recent months, experts have raised concerns about the time and costs involved in developing lifesaving vaccines. Now, Sanofi Pasteur, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Infectious Disease Research Institute (IDRI) are joining together to do their part to improve things.

The organizations partnered to create the Global Health Vaccine Center of Innovation (GHVCI), a joint effort aimed at making a new, cheaper model for vaccines development. It'll be based in IDRI's offices in Seattle with the focus of combining each party's expertise in an effort to accelerate the development of vaccines against a range of infectious diseases, while promoting the accessibility of such vaccines.

Sanofi Pasteur will bring its experience as an international vaccine developer, manufacturer and seller, while IDRI contributes its vaccine adjuvant and formulation expertise. The Gates Foundation will commit its "knowledge, influence and financial support," a statement said.

An initial grant from the Gates Foundation will help to pay for the formation of the new entity, and, going forward, Sanofi Pasteur and Gates Foundation will fund its operation and growth, the statement said. The parties will seek additional funding based on collaborative research on individual vaccine projects. In its own statement, Sanofi Pasteur said it'll obtain access to IDRI's adjuvants and antigens through the partnership while leveraging the external R&D center.

Sanofi Pasteur SVP of R&D John Shiver

"There are a number of diseases that are of great global-health significance, where Sanofi Pasteur could significantly contribute; however, commercial realities provide a challenge to investment," John Shiver, senior vice president of R&D at Sanofi Pasteur, said in a statement. "The establishment of this Global Health Vaccines Center of Innovation represents a new opportunity--operating within the open innovation R&D model--to provide antigens, adjuvanted formulations, funding, and expertise to allow development of needed vaccines."

Successful vaccines take years and in many cases even decades to make, plus hundreds of millions of dollars in development costs, factors that can be off-putting for profit-based pharma companies.

In August, as the Ebola outbreak waned in West Africa, vaccines officials expressed frustration that the current process brought about a promising vaccine candidate so late in the outbreak and after so many Ebola victims had died. At the time, a group called for a $2 billion fund from industry, governments and foundations to pay for research and development of vaccines against conditions that aren't getting research attention. But before that, in June, Bill Gates and other experts called for more structure in the process to support early vaccine development research, Reuters reported, as there had been a lack of progress in developing a MERS vaccine despite the facts known about the virus.

To kick things off for the GHVCI, a steering committee comprising representatives of each partner will identify areas of research to direct the new effort. 

- here's the IDRI release
- and Sanofi Pasteur's statement