Most vaccines must be kept cold and transported under constant refrigeration via a so-called 'cold chain' which is a significant challenge in hot, remote and resource-limited regions.
Details of the Vaccine Discovery Partnership (VxDP) under which this initiative falls were unveiled this morning at the Foundation's Grand Challenges Meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In one of the first projects to start under this initiative, GSK researchers will explore how to make adjuvants - a critical component of some vaccines - more heat stable.
"Developing a thermostable adjuvant is an important and ambitious goal. This partnership is the starting point for research into an exciting area of biomedical technology that has the potential to overcome a significant and long-standing barrier to vaccine access in developing countries," commented Emmanuel Hanon, Senior Vice President, Vaccine Discovery and Development, GSK. "At GSK, we believe that by working together we will find innovative solutions to the world's biggest health problems."
This project will focus initially on the adjuvant AS01 which is used in GSK's RTS,S malaria vaccine candidate, currently in late-stage development in partnership with the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative. RTS,S has been designed for use in infants and children from sub-Saharan Africa, where maintaining vaccines at an optimum temperature can be challenging. Developing a method of making AS01 more heat stable could bring a significant public health benefit. The results could also have broader applications for all other AS01-containing vaccines, including vaccines in development by GSK against HIV and tuberculosis.
"Vaccines are one of the most powerful tools to save and improve lives, and this partnership with GSK will help drive research and development efforts to overcome persistent global health challenges," said Trevor Mundel, president of Global Health at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "Reducing the dependence on the cold chain is critical to the affordable delivery of life-saving vaccines to the children who need them most."
Despite significant progress over the last decade, over 22 million children in developing nations remain without access to life-saving vaccines. Reducing dependence on the cold chain is a key approach to support the effective and affordable delivery of vaccines for global health.
The VxDP, instigated by the BMGF, aims to integrate key players in vaccine development - biotechnology institutions, pharmaceutical companies, non-government organisations (NGOs) and academia - to drive advances in vaccine research and development (R&D) that have the potential to transform global health. Projects funded through the VxDP will look to solve some of the world's most intractable health problems, including barriers to vaccine access.
GSK is in on-going discussions with the Foundation to shape and plan additional projects with relevance to global health that can be initiated through this new collaboration.
About AS01 and RTS,S
AS01 is the adjuvant used in GSK's RTS,S malaria vaccine candidate. GSK is also developing other AS01-containing vaccines against HIV and tuberculosis.
RTS,S, the world's most advanced malaria vaccine candidate, is being developed in partnership by GSK and the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI), together with prominent African research centres and their Northern academic research partners. RTS,S aims to help protect infants and young children living in malaria-endemic areas of Africa against infection and clinical disease caused by plasmodium falciparum, the most deadly type of malaria parasite.
About the Vaccine Discovery Partnership (VxDP)
The Vaccine Discovery Partnership (VxDP) is a novel funding programme initiated by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to enhance innovation in the development of vaccines for global health. Under a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) framework, the VxDP will oversee a range of projects with multiple industry partners. Projects funded through the VxDP will span preclinical to experimental Phase IIa trials. These projects may be of relatively high risk, such that they would be difficult for any one organisation to fund without the partnership. The Foundation will set aside funds to support pilot projects and partnering companies will contribute matching resources and expertise while also committing that advances will support those who need them most through global access provisions.
GSK - one of the world's leading research-based pharmaceutical and healthcare companies - is committed to improving the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer.