Vac­cines against HIV, malaria, TB still some way o≠

The East African - - OUTLOOK - By DON­ALD G. MCGNEIL

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.

Pic­ture: File

Re­searchers are work­ing to­wards a malaria vac­cine de­spite cuts in fund­ing.

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