Milestones :: Perspectives

Milestones :: Perspectives
PATH boosts leadership in developing and introducing urgently needed vaccines
PATH’s Center for Vaccine Innovation and Access attracts top global talent and additional $120 million investment from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Seattle, September 6, 2017—Building on decades of innovation in vaccine development and immunization, PATH announced today it has received a $120 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to further strengthen its PATH Center for Vaccine Innovation and Access (CVIA), which works across every stage of vaccine research, development, and introduction for diseases in low-resource settings.

PATH also announced that several global experts in vaccine development and introduction have joined PATH CVIA to advance these critical vaccine efforts.

“We are excited to continue our long-standing partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop and introduce vaccines for the families and communities that need them most,” commented Steve Davis, president and CEO of PATH. “We are working on vaccines against over a dozen deadly diseases and partnering with governments and companies around the world to save lives and improve health through vaccine innovation and immunization.”

CVIA operates across the entire vaccine development and delivery spectrum—from preclinical research on novel candidates through pivotal clinical evaluations and, ultimately, innovative approaches for new vaccine introduction.

“From specific vaccine successes against Meningitis A and Japanese encephalitis to game-changing immunization supply chain technologies like the vaccine vial monitor, PATH has an impressive track record in saving lives through vaccine innovations,” commented Trevor Mundel, president of Global Health for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “We are delighted to support CVIA, a center of excellence for vaccine development and introduction.”…

PATH welcomed new experts in vaccine development and introduction who have joined the CVIA leadership team:
:: Fred Cassels, global head, Enteric and Diarrheal Diseases, served as chief of the Enteric and Hepatic Diseases Branch at the National Institutes of Health.
:: Bruce Innis, global head, Respiratory Infections and Maternal Immunization, brings his experience with GlaxoSmithKline, most recently as vice president and senior vaccine development leader for Influenza and Dengue Vaccines, and previous experience with the US Army as chief of the Department of Virus Diseases at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.
:: Harshvardhan (Hersh) Mehta, global head, Development (Chemistry, Manufacturing, and Controls), has over two decades of experience in senior roles for Merck, Sanofi, MedImmune, and Roche.
:: Karen Midthun, global head, Regulatory, served as director of the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research between 2009 and 2016 and served during the prior 16 years in progressively senior roles within FDA.

“It is an honor to welcome these world-renowned vaccine authorities to PATH,” commented David C. Kaslow, PATH vice president for Essential Medicines and global head of CVIA. “Together with PATH’s existing expertise, these new leaders will help PATH and our partners bring lifesaving and affordable vaccines to people living in the poorest communities around the world.”

PATH veterans taking on new roles to round out the CVIA leadership team include:
:: Deborah Atherly, global head, Policy, Access, & Introduction.
:: Ashley Birkett, global head, Malaria Vaccines.
:: Jorge Flores, global head, Clinical.
:: John Konz, global head, Integrated Portfolio & Financial Management.
:: Jessica Milman, managing director, CVIA.
:: Katya Spielberg, global head, Finance & Contract Management.

“We’re proud of our two decades of developing and delivering vaccines that are saving millions of lives,” added Steve Davis, president and CEO of PATH. “With this solid base of funding and this world-class team, PATH can do even more to combat age-old scourges and emerging threats.”

NCI’s Douglas R. Lowy and John T. Schiller to receive 2017 Lasker Award
Wednesday, September 6, 2017
Two scientists at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) will receive the 2017 Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award for their significant research leading to the development of human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines. The award is the country’s most prestigious biomedical research prize, and will be presented to John T. Schiller, Ph.D., of NCI’s Center for Cancer Research (CCR), and Douglas R. Lowy, M.D., also in CCR and acting director of NCI. NCI is part of the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Lowy’s and Dr. Schiller’s collaborative work to understand and prevent HPV infection has led to the approval of three preventive HPV vaccines by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“I’m incredibly proud of this much-deserved honor bestowed upon John and Doug for their foundational discoveries that led to the creation of HPV vaccines,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. “Thanks to their extraordinary efforts, we have the potential to eliminate cervical cancer and greatly reduce other HPV-associated cancers. This award reinforces the critical importance of basic research in the development of medical breakthroughs like the HPV vaccine.”

Efforts to develop these vaccines were spurred by an urgent public health need. Infection with certain types of HPV causes almost all cases of cervical cancer, the fourth most common cancer in women worldwide. More than 500,000 women around the world are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, many of them at relatively young ages. More than 275,000 women die from the disease annually, and most of these deaths occur in developing regions of the world. Without successful interventions, the worldwide incidence and mortality from cervical cancer is projected to increase indefinitely. HPV infection also causes anal, vulvar, vaginal, penile, and oropharyngeal cancers.

While working to address the need to prevent HPV-caused cancers in the 1990s, a team led by Drs. Schiller and Lowy discovered that the proteins that form the outer shell of HPV could form virus-like particles (VLPs) that closely resemble the original virus but are not infectious. They found that these VLPs could trigger the immune system to produce high levels of protective antibodies that can neutralize the virus in a subsequent infection. The VLPs ultimately became the basis of the three current HPV vaccines: Gardasil, Gardasil 9, and Cervarix.

Drs. Lowy and Schiller say this breakthrough was possible because of earlier discoveries, and that it demonstrates the importance of long-term, publicly supported basic research.

“People have known since the 19th century that cervical cancer behaved as a sexually transmitted disease, but it wasn’t until the discoveries of Harald zur Hausen and his colleagues that HPV was found to be the cause. Development of the vaccines built upon decades of publicly supported research,” said Dr. Lowy. “We’re honored to be included with the other luminaries who have received this prestigious award.”

It is estimated that widespread uptake of current HPV vaccines could reduce the incidence and mortality of cervical cancer by more than two-thirds. Researchers are currently working to find ways to encourage uptake of the vaccines by lowering costs and simplifying the logistics of vaccination, especially in the developing world where most cervical cancers occur.

“This year’s Lasker Medical Research Awards illustrate the power of biomedical investigation to advance human health, whether scientists probe basic questions that reveal unforeseen truths or pursue goal-directed projects,” said Joseph L. Goldstein, M.D., chairman of the Department of Molecular Genetics at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, and chair of the Lasker Medical Research Awards Jury. “Douglas Lowy and John Schiller discovered that a single protein from the capsule of papillomaviruses can self-assemble into virus-like particles, paving the way for HPV vaccines that prevent cervical and other cancers.” …