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Wall Street Journal Examines Program To Spur Vaccine Development For Developing World Diseases

The Wall Street Journal examines a $1.5 billion program supported by Italy, the U.K., Canada, Russia, Norway and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that hopes “to encourage pharmaceutical companies to develop vaccines for diseases common to poor countries,” which is expected to be announced Friday “on the sidelines of a meeting of top finance officials from the Group of Eight major industrial powers.”

“Instead of buying existing drugs and giving them away, the donors will guarantee pharmaceutical companies a future market big enough to justify developing and manufacturing new vaccines needed in nations too impoverished to afford them on their own,” the newspaper writes. The article explores why insufficient financial incentives tend to keep pharmaceutical companies from developing vaccines targeted to developing countries and how the program aims to overcome these barriers.

The first focus of the program is a vaccine for pneumococcal disease, “which kills 1.6 million people in the world a year, the majority of them young children in the developing world,” according to the Wall Street Journal, which adds, “The donors chose to go after pneumococcal disease rather than malaria, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis or other infectious illnesses in part because the prospects appear good that new vaccines could hit the market as early as next year.”

In collaboration with UNICEF, the World Bank and the GAVI Alliance, the Wall Street Journal writes, the donors “will promise to purchase new pneumococcus vaccines that meet specified criteria for safety, durability and effectiveness.” According to the Wall Street Journal, “The U.S. waxed enthusiastic about the approach after Italy and Britain began championing it four years ago, but never came up with a contribution” (Phillips, Wall Street Journal, 6/12).