Geneva, 28 May 2020. IFPMA has today updated the world’s media on the biopharmaceutical industry’s unprecedented efforts, many of them in collaboration with others, to speed up research and development for a new COVID-19 vaccine. The body representing the global biopharmaceutical industry also highlighted at the briefing that plans are underway to scale up manufacturing at risk even though it is not sure yet which, if any, vaccines in development will be found to be safe and effective. Such investments decisions are unprecedented and demonstrate companies are not taking a “business as usual” approach in their response to the global pandemic.
The industry reaffirmed its acute awareness of the enormous responsibility it has to patients and society to bring its knowledge and expertise to bear, in collaboration and in partnership with others, in finding a coronavirus vaccine and thereby live up to the commitment it is giving to deliver safe, quality, effective, and affordable COVID-19 vaccines to all.
A new vaccine to protect people from COVID-19 holds the greatest promise of ending the pandemic, but there are no guarantees that one will be found. The biopharmaceutical industry is working at unparalleled speed and sparing no resources to develop safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines in record time. As of 27 May 2020, the WHO reports there are currently 10 candidate vaccines in clinical evaluation and 115 candidate vaccines in pre-clinical evaluation. Several biopharmaceutical companies are researching vaccine candidates and are collaborating in the sharing of existing technologies that can be leveraged to allow a rapid upscale of production once a vaccine candidate is identified. Companies are also sharing technologies that act as an adjuvant which can boost the effectiveness of a potential vaccine. [Overview of industry activities].
Thomas Cueni, IFPMA Director General, is acutely aware of the challenges: “Not only does the science have to be on our side if we are to quickly find a coronavirus vaccine, but we also have to find ways of being able to produce hundreds of millions, possible billions of doses of the new vaccine. Then people need to be vaccinated in sufficient numbers to protect whole communities. And, all the while, we should continue to produce existing vaccines”.
He admits the task in hand is larger than any attempted before and beyond the power of any single entity. Cueni explains: “The only way to deliver on our promise of safe, equitable, affordable coronavirus vaccines is for science and collaboration on a global scale to prevail. Be in no doubt, our member companies are fully engaged in the race to find a vaccine. We are fully committed to playing our full role within existing partnerships, such as ACT Accelerator and Gavi, on the basis that we wholeheartedly embrace the goal of providing new coronavirus vaccines for all”.
Looking to the upcoming Global Vaccine Summit on 4 June, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance replenishment, Cueni declared: “While we should give our undevoted attention to ending the COVID-19 pandemic, we must not fall into the trap of forgetting the need for ongoing immunization efforts to continue as well as being very vigilant in tracking any future virus”. He confirms that the biopharmaceutical industry will continue its 20-year history of working in partnership with Gavi, founded in 2000, that has led to nearly half the world’s children being protected against deadly and debilitating infectious diseases”.
He announced: “Next week, we pledge to play our part in protecting the health of the next generation and support Gavi’s mission to reach 300 million more children with the full protection of the broadest vaccine portfolio in history”.
Note for the editor
The biopharmaceutical industry mobilized at an unprecedented scale and days after the pandemic was declared, it committed to do all it could to fight the pandemic and work in partnership with governments, the WHO and health systems across the world in a concerted, collective response [19 March 2020]. At the time, industry leaders indicated that a new vaccine could be available in record time, hopefully within 12 to 18 months. But this remained a very ambitious timeline and testing the safety of the new vaccine should not be compromised. Since then, IFPMA has joined the global public-private partnership, ACT Accelerator on 24 April 2020, as founding partner, and it is bringing to this new partnership its knowledge and expertise in the discovery and development of medicines and vaccines, as well as its experience in building manufacturing capacity and distribution networks. The industry was invited to lend its support to the Coronavirus Global Response Pledging Marathon on 4 May 2020. IFPMA has published on 28 May the Vaccines policy principles that will guide its work going forwards with the ACT Accelerator Vaccines group.
Watch Global Media Briefing (28 May 2020)