Just months after GlaxoSmithKline’s malaria vaccine Mosquirix was given an EMA green light last July, it suffered a setback at the WHO, which recommended that the vaccine be examined in pilot programs before introduction through large immunization campaigns. Now, international vaccine alliance Gavi is stepping in with conditional funding to help the upcoming real-world programs get underway.
Gavi’s board will provide $27.5 million for the studies, but there’s a catch: the alliance is requiring that other agencies step up and match the funding before it kicks in. If granted, the money will help researchers determine how effective the four-dose vaccine would be in Africa, where the WHO is putting the finishing touches on three such pilot studies, Gavi said.
Also known as RTS,S, GlaxoSmithKline’s ($GSK) malaria vaccine is seen as imperfect due to its 39% efficacy that wanes over time. But the vaccine could play a lifesaving part in battling the deadly disease, one that experts say needs to be measured in a real-world setting. Mosquirix could save one life out of every 200 children immunized, according to models cited by Gavi.
Part of the need for the programs is the fact that three Mosquirix doses will be given outside of the typical childhood immunization schedule, the alliance added in its statement.
“For decades, a malaria vaccine has been one of the holy grails of modern medicine,” Dr. Pedro Alonso, director of the WHO Global Malaria Programme, said in a statement. “Gavi’s pledge will help us fund the pilot deployment of a first-generation malaria vaccine that has the potential to save tens of thousands of lives in Africa.”
Gavi’s funding decision comes just one month following the publication of a Lancet paper by WHO experts calling for more vaccine implementation testing as part of the vaccine R&D process. Although the tests require “substantial upfront costs” they are worth it due to long-term cost savings, the group said, adding that they should be combined with safety and efficacy testing to form three components of vaccine development.
In Mosquirix’s case, the WHO experts said at the time that GSK has agreed to donate pilot test doses.
- here’s Gavi’s release