Academic journal article Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Private Investment in AIDS Vaccine Development: Obstacles and Solutions

Academic journal article Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Private Investment in AIDS Vaccine Development: Obstacles and Solutions

Article excerpt

Voir page 726 le resume en francais. En la pagina 726 figura un resumen en espanol.


Global investment in the development of preventive AIDS vaccines has been quite limited (1, 2). In 1999 only US$ 350 million were spent by the public and private sectors on such work, nearly two-thirds of this amount having been disbursed by the National Institutes of Health in the Unites States of America (2). More than 25 AIDS candidate vaccines have been tested for safety and immune response in small groups of human volunteers but only one is being tested for efficacy in a large human population (2). Successful vaccine development requires both public and private finance, the latter making it possible to transform the science into a product that can be manufactured and sold on a large scale. Why, in the face of the enormous impact of HIV/AIDS, is industry, not investing more in vaccines? What obstacles limit further investment? How can private investment in research and development on AIDS vaccines be stimulated?

In the autumn of 1998 the World Bank AIDS Vaccine Task Force commissioned a study on the perspectives of the biotechnology, vaccine, and pharmaceutical industries regarding the barriers to greater investment in research and development on AIDS vaccines that would be effective and affordable in developing countries (3). The results were used to develop a framework for understanding industry's decisions on investment in vaccine development. Based on this framework a menu of mechanisms was identified which might influence private investment (4, 5). The present paper summarizes the main findings, the framework, and the views expressed about various mechanisms that might stimulate investment.

Study of industry perspectives

Representatives of a cross-section of private firms were selected to represent varying levels of commitment to the development of an AIDS vaccine (Fig. 1). Of the 20 European and United States companies contacted, 16 agreed to participate. Seven leaders from the AIDS vaccine research community were also interviewed (Box 1). The study collected information from each firm on current activities in AIDS vaccine development; perceptions of the potential market for AIDS vaccines, particularly in developing countries; barriers to AIDS vaccine development; and the probable extent to which various mechanisms would stimulate private investment (3).

Fig. 1. Overall level of corporate AIDS
vaccine research effort, 1998(a)

                                Importance for company

                    Sole               Major             Component
                  activity           activity          of research/
                                                      drug portfolio

level of

Serious        VaxGen            Apollon             Cel-Sci
(evidence of                     Immuno AG           Chiron
sustained                        Pasteur-Merieux     Glaxo Wellcome(c)
commitment                         Connaught(b)      Merck
over time)

Moderate       Immune Response   Acrogen             Abbott
                 Corp.           Agouron               Laboratories
               MicroGeneSys        Pharmaceuticals   Boehringer
                                 Auragen/Agracetus     Ingelheim
                                 AVR Corp.           Bristol-Myers
                                 Cell GeneSys          Squibb
                                 Gilead Sciences     British Biotech
                                 Immuno Science      DuPont
                                   Inc.                Pharmaceuticals
                                 Vertex              Hoffmann-LaRoche
                                   Pharmaceuticals   Immunex Corp.
                                 Virus Research      Therion Biologics
                                   Institute         Wyeth Lederle

Sporadic                         IDT Inc. … 
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