Key challenges when dealing with vaccine innovation, technology and partnerships in emerging markets
I recently posed this question on LinkedIn, where industry professionals had a chance to discuss and answer the question. Take a look at the discussion that took place below. Do you have any challenges that didn’t make this discussion? Comment below and share. Alternatively, join our Vaccine Nation LinkedIn group for similar conversations.
The conversation took place between: Andrew Lees, Ph.D., Scientific Director at Fina BioSolutions LLC and Owner, Fina BioSolutions LLC and Ranajit Sen, Senior Management Professional, Hyderabad Area, India
What are the key challenges you find when dealing with vaccine innovation, technology and partnerships in emerging markets?
A: My experience with Indian & Chinese companies is that they are conservative and would rather have a me-too product that is known to work. This is particularly true in the pediatric area.
R: Andrew, I don’t quite agree. Emerging markets are keen on seeking partnerships for developing newer vaccines which address unmet needs of the indigenous population. Like vaccines against TB, malaria, rotavirus, HPV et al
A: Ranajit, you are absolutely correct that emerging markets are looking for new vaccines to meet unmet needs and there is tremendous opportunity there. There is also great satisfaction in knowing that you are going to be saving lives.
My point is that if you are looking for partnerships in emerging markets, it is generally better to come with known technology and expertise, not a research project. I have met many small companies with innovative but clinically unproven ideas. The path to market for these is just too long and uncertain for most emerging market needs.
R: Andrew, i know of at least one company in India which is engaged in the development of a novel vaccine against HPV (VLP) aided by tech support from a public institute. The same company has successfully put on the market a novel vaccine against cholera which has WHO PQ. Yet another Indian vaccine manufacturer developed a conjugate typhoid vaccine a few years back. However the latter failed to impress the medical community. A research institute in the public sector has also developed a novel vaccine against HIV which is currently undergoing Phase 2 trials
R: Andrew, further, a third company in the private sector has developed a vaccine against non-salmonella typhus. The program is being funded by Wellcome Trust.
A: My definition of “novel” may be different from the cases you are citing. For example the typhi conjugate isn’t novel in that has been through at least phase 2 by the US NIH. By novel, I meant the sort of exciting but clinically unproven platforms that small companies generally have. By the way, I am responsible for the conjugation chemistry for the Wellcome Trust-Bharat-University of Maryland Salmonella vaccine, which is, among other things, intended to complement Bharat’s S. typhi conjugate.
R: Andrew, I don’t clearly understand your definition of “novel”. Would you describe the VLP HPV vaccine i have mentioned fall in this category? I am not clear about the HIV vaccine though, but i believe it is based on a new platform
A: Generally, I would say novel as not having been through a clinical trial. I would not call the VLP HPV as novel, as the VLP platform is now well accepted.
Let me try a different way to explain my point- in emerging markets there are many devastating diseases, like pneumo and Hib, for which there are vaccines that are known to work and which are available in the developed world. This is low hanging fruit. It is unlikely that a developing world vaccine company would take a completely novel approach for these.
For diseases with no known vaccine, more novelty is needed. The first step is likely to first convince an NGO. like the Wellcome Trust or the Gates Foundation, of the concept and then approach the emerging market company.
I can only speak from my own experience and observations.
R: Andrew, thanks for giving me insights into the novel platform perspective. Indian companies do not have the wherewithal to develop new technology platforms. Funding is a major constraint. I agree that NGOs like WT should come forward to fuel development which address the regions unmet needs