Vaccines against HIV, malaria, TB still some way o≠
NEW VACCINES against HIV, malaria and tuberculosis — three major killers of the world’s poor — are unlikely to be produced soon unless much more money is committed to finding them, a new study has concluded.
Other worthy goals that appear out of reach for now include a hepatitis C vaccine, a combination vaccine against the four leading causes of deadly diarrhoea, a rapid cure for people who have caught TB and new treatments for a dozen neglected diseases, such as leprosy, dengue fever and sleeping sickness.
To make real progress against this variety of infectious diseases by 2030, the study concluded, the world must increase research spending to nearly $9 billion a year; It now spends only about $3 billion.
But the world is moving in the opposite direction. The combined amount that government donors, private foundations and pharmaceutical companies spend on the cause soared in the early 2000s. But, except for some recent emergency funding of Ebola research, it has slowly declined since the 2009 fiscal crisis.
“Donors are cutting back on funding at a time when we should be stepping on the gas,” said Gavin Yamey, director of Duke University’s Centre for Policy Impact on Global Health and the study’s lead author.
The study assessed 538 products being developed for 35 diseases afflicting the poor, and was the first to analyse such a large portfolio.
Asked about it, leaders of two major funders of global health research — the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases agreed with many of its conclusions but thought it was overly pessimistic about prospects for some new inventions, including a TB vaccine.
The study was funded by the Gates Foundation and the Swiss Agency for Development and Co-operation and published on Gates Open Research, an open access website. Dr Trevor Mundel, the foundation’s president for global health, said he thought the study was right that prospects were dim for a fully protective HIV vaccine or for a malaria vaccine that worked for more than six months.
But even six months’ protection would keep newborns alive until their immune systems are stronger, Dr Mundel said.
Researchers are working towards a malaria vaccine despite cuts in funding.