Coronavirus: Will someone develop a vaccine?

Global pharmaceutical companies may not see enough profitability from developing a Covid-19 vaccine.

Coronavirus: Will someone develop a vaccine?

Work to develop a vaccine for the coronavirus is continuing


While the world worries about the spread of the deadly coronavirus, now known as Covid-19, one would expect the major pharmaceutical firms to make millions, even billions, by rushing to develop a vaccine.

But in reality, this is not the case. While the global vaccine market is expected to grow to $60bn (£46bn) this year, big profits are not guaranteed.

''Successfully developing a preventive vaccine or treatment for a public health crisis is difficult. It typically takes a lot of time and money," says US-based Brad Loncar, a biotechnology investor and chief executive of Loncar Investments.

"There is typically little money in it for companies that do successfully develop something, not the billions that some investors mistakenly expect."

The global vaccines industry is dominated by big players such as Pfizer, Merck, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Sanofi, and Johnson & Johnson. 

Worldwide sales of vaccines totalled $54bn last year, and have almost doubled since 2014, according to data analysts Statista. Driving this growth is the increase of infectious diseases like influenza, swine flu, hepatitis and Ebola.

"One would think that the industry has the reserves to jump at this challenge. But none of the four top vaccine companies has shown significant interest," says Dr Ellen 't Hoen, director at medicines law and policy at University Medical Center Groningen in Amsterdam.

Outside of the big firms, there are a handful of smaller pharma companies pushing to find a vaccine for the deadly Covid-19 outbreak, which has already claimed more than 1,000 lives.

Gilead, a US biotech business that makes anti-HIV drugs, has announced it will trial its drug Remdesivir. Meanwhile Kaletra, a combination of two anti-HIV drugs from pharma group AbbVie is being trialled on patients in China. Both trials are based on existing medicines.

"A large company like Gilead or AbbVie will be able to use an existing medicine against this as a therapeutic treatment, but it's unlikely to be much of a needle mover from a stock market perspective for a large company like that," adds Mr Loncar.

For Covid-19, charitable donations are being used to spark pharma companies into action to find a vaccine. One of the leading players is a not-for-profit organisation called the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).

CEPI co-founders include the governments of Norway and India, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Wellcome Trust. CEPI is supporting vaccine development programmes by Inovio Pharmaceuticals and Moderna.

 

Among the big pharma companies, GSK has agreed to make its technology available to the CEPI to help it create a medicine against Covid-19.

Vaccines often require lengthy testing on thousands of people before they are allowed to be sold. But in 2002 and 2003, the Sars outbreak came and went before a vaccine could be produced. In fact, there is still no protective vaccine for Sars available.

Regarding Ebola, the first vaccine was produced by Merck, and successfully deployed in Guinea, west Africa, in 2015. At the time it was an unlicensed drug, yet it was rolled out in the country for "compassionate use" after the authorisation of the Guinean government. Merck's vaccine was not given regulatory approval in the US until last year.

Another Ebola vaccine by Johnson & Johnson was made available from 2019 in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Ronald Klain served as the US Ebola response coordinator in 2014-15. "I don't work for the companies, I'm not like a drug company fan," Mr Klain told a panel last week hosted by not-for-profit think-tank Aspen Institute, "but there's no question that a lot of them lost a lot of money trying to produce an Ebola vaccine."

A key reason why vaccines often have to wait years before they are given regulatory approval is the potential for side effects. These can also happen even when a drug has been approved.

During the 2009-10 swine flu pandemic, six million people were given the Pandemrix vaccine made by GlaxoSmithKline. However, it was subsequently withdrawn from sale after it was discovered to cause narcolepsy in some people. Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that causes people to fall asleep numerous times a day.

Also speaking at last week's Aspen Institute event, Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said no major pharmaceutical company has come forward to say it would manufacture a vaccine for Covid-19. He called it "very difficult and very frustrating".

"Companies that have the skill to be able to do it are not going to just sit around and have a warm facility, ready to go for when you need it," Dr Fauci said.

Dr Fauci added that it would be at least one year before a Covid-19 vaccine would be available. That timeline assumes a large pharma manufacturer steps up to help make the product. The World Health Organization (WHO) hopes a vaccine will be ready within 18 months.

Pharma companies have responded to previous public health crises by developing vaccines, only to have those crises fade, and to be left with significant research and development costs. "When we were doing this with Ebola, it was a major vaccine company that got burned who's now pulling out of that," says Dr Fauci. "It is going to be a challenge to be able to get a major company to do that."

Mr Loncar sums up the mentality of the big pharma firms when he said "most companies and investors are not in these things for the long haul". BBC

 
 

Other News

.
WHO says fake coronavirus claims causing 'infodemic'
WHO says fake coronavirus claims causing 'infodemic'
SOCIETYicon  14/02/2020 

A representative from the World Health Organization wants tech firms to fight fake news on coronavirus.

Quang Nam launches separate taxis for Chinese-speaking people
Quang Nam launches separate taxis for Chinese-speaking people
SOCIETYicon  14/02/2020 

Quang Nam Province People's Committee has just asked the local Department of Transport to establish a separate taxi fleet to serve Chinese-speaking customers.

Over 5,000 Chinese workers in Vietnam quarantined
Over 5,000 Chinese workers in Vietnam quarantined
SOCIETYicon  14/02/2020 

More than 5,000 Chinese people have been quarantined when returning to Vietnam to work according to the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs.

Gunman wanted for mass shooting in Cu Chi killed: police
Gunman wanted for mass shooting in Cu Chi killed: police
SOCIETYicon  14/02/2020 

Le Quoc Tuan, who reportedly killed five people and injured three others with an AK-47 in suburban Cu Chi District in HCM City, has been killed after being on the run for more than two weeks.

More health workers sent to Vinh Phuc to fight COVID-19
More health workers sent to Vinh Phuc to fight COVID-19
SOCIETYicon  14/02/2020 

More than 160 health workers have been sent to Binh Xuyen District, northern Vinh Phuc Province, to help with the fight against the acute respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus (COVID-19), the provincial Health Department said.

Quang Ninh refuses to receive Italian cruise ship amid coronavirus spread
Quang Ninh refuses to receive Italian cruise ship amid coronavirus spread
SOCIETYicon  14/02/2020 

Authorities of the northern province of Quang Ninh have refused to welcome an Italian cruise ship with more than 1,000 tourists on board for fears of coronavirus infection.

Students in 30 localities back to school from February 17
Students in 30 localities back to school from February 17
SOCIETYicon  14/02/2020 

As of 11.20 on February 14, 30 cities and provinces have reported to the Ministry of Education and Training on their decision to allow students back to school from February 17, after a two-week break due to Covid-19 outbreak.

Coronavirus: Vinh Phuc's three-month-old baby in stable health condition
Coronavirus: Vinh Phuc's three-month-old baby in stable health condition
SOCIETYicon  14/02/2020 

A three-month-old girl in the northern province of Vinh Phuc Province who has been infected with coronavirus is now in a stable health condition.

Coronavirus: No change in outbreak despite China spike, WHO says
Coronavirus: No change in outbreak despite China spike, WHO says
SOCIETYicon  14/02/2020 

The World Health Organization says it is "not seeing a dramatic increase" in cases outside China.

Canadian tourist drowned in Quang Nam
Canadian tourist drowned in Quang Nam
SOCIETYicon  14/02/2020 

A Canadian tourist drowned while swimming at a beach in Quang Nam Province.

Coronavirus outbreak: Developments from Feb.1-14, 2020
Coronavirus outbreak: Developments from Feb.1-14, 2020
SOCIETYicon  14/02/2020 

A total of 65,213 cases of Covid-19 infection had been recorded globally as of 7:00 on February 14. The death toll had reached 1,486, with 1,483 in mainland China, and three recorded outside mainland China.

Standard for university admission should be raised: Minister
Standard for university admission should be raised: Minister
SOCIETYicon  14/02/2020 

The standard for university admissions should be raised to ensure higher quality of training, said Phung Xuan Nha, Minister of Education and Training.

Central hydropower plants' reservoirs lack water
Central hydropower plants' reservoirs lack water
SOCIETYicon  14/02/2020 

Many hydropower plant reservoirs in the central region are facing water shortages, impacting electricity generation and water reserves for the ongoing dry season from February until July.

Messy construction rampant in Hanoi’s suburban districts
Messy construction rampant in Hanoi’s suburban districts
SOCIETYicon  14/02/2020 

Hanoi's outskirts districts have been blighted by rampant and disorganised construction in recent years, according to officials.

Mekong Delta, Central Highlands brace for forest fires
Mekong Delta, Central Highlands brace for forest fires
SOCIETYicon  14/02/2020 

Authorities in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta and Tay Nguyen (Central Highlands) regions are taking precautionary measures to protect forests facing high risk of fires due to the prolonged hot and dry weather.

Companies in Dong Nai, HCM City face staff shortage
Companies in Dong Nai, HCM City face staff shortage
SOCIETYicon  14/02/2020 

The number of foreign companies and corporations choosing Vietnam for investment and production has increased strongly in recent years but their recruitment of staff has faced problems, according to labour departments and centres.

Schools make preparations to welcome students back
Schools make preparations to welcome students back
SOCIETYicon  14/02/2020 

Schools in HCM City are making preparations to welcome students back after two weeks off due to the outbreak of novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Vietnam makes significant progress in labour quality
Vietnam makes significant progress in labour quality
SOCIETYicon  14/02/2020 

Minister of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs Dao Ngoc Dung spoke to Vietnam News Agency about his ministry's achievements in 2019 and measures it plans to implement to reach its goals in 2020.

Coronavirus: Are cruise ships really 'floating Petri dishes'?
Coronavirus: Are cruise ships really 'floating Petri dishes'?
SOCIETYicon  14/02/2020 

Millions go on cruise ships each year - but are they more likely to make people sick?

Epidemic of rumours breaks out amid COVID-19 crisis
Epidemic of rumours breaks out amid COVID-19 crisis
SOCIETYicon  13/02/2020 

As the number of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) infection cases soars in China and spreads across the world, misinformation on social networks about the origins, scale and magnitude of the epidemic has hit countries across Asia, 

 
 
 
Leave your comment on an article

OR QUICK LOGIN