Vaccines and Global Health: The Week in Review has expanded its coverage of new reports, books, research and analysis published independent of the journal channel covered in Journal Watch below. Our interests span immunization and vaccines, as well as global public health, health governance, and associated themes. If you would like to suggest content to be included in this service, please contact David Curry at: firstname.lastname@example.org
How Germany Can Take the Lead in Global Health
Impatient Optimists | 18 October 2018
By Chris Elias and Trevor Mundel
No category of medical innovations has saved the lives of more children than vaccines. In the 17 years since its founding, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, has prevented an estimated 10 million deaths by immunizing children in low-income countries.
That’s why the Gates Foundation is engaging with CureVac AG and BioNTech, two German biotechnology companies that are pioneering new ways to make vaccines. They use the body’s own administered mRNA, the molecules that turn genetic information into proteins.
The implications of mRNA vaccines are enormous: They could be developed quickly, perhaps fast enough to respond to a serious infectious disease outbreak like Ebola. Plus, they would be cheap.
Right now, companies must spend hundreds of millions — even billions — of euros to develop vaccines and build plants to make them. The process can take many years, and plants for one vaccine cannot be repurposed to make other vaccines. With mRNA vaccines, one plant could make multiple vaccines. It might even be possible to make vaccines in a machine the size of a refrigerator.
Just a few years ago, all of this was hypothetical. Over the past several months, though, we’ve started to see results with the successful introduction of mRNA vaccines in small and large animals. And last year, while testing mRNA vaccines for flu and rabies, researchers found that mRNA vaccines could be much more durable than the standard versions.
But what’s most exciting about these breakthroughs is that they aren’t happening in isolation.
The Gates Foundation recently announced that we’re opening a new European office in Berlin, and we are holding our annual Grand Challenges meeting in Germany’s capital city as well. Neither the time nor the place is a coincidence.
Germany is an emerging leader in global health. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the World Health Summit, an annual convening of global health leaders hosted by Germany with the co-sponsorship of other European Union nations.
And we are living in a moment when researchers are making quantum leaps in the life sciences. Many of those leaps — like the breakthroughs pursued by CureVac and BioNTech — could happen in Germany…