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GSK proposes biopreparedness unit to combat global outbreaks

Published on 09/09/16 at 11:12am

London-based pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline has proposed the creation of a biopreparedness unit to help avert crises like those we have seen with the recent global zika and ebola outbreaks.

The unit is designed to be dedicated to the creation of vaccines for diseases in developing regions where there is little opportunity for generation of profit, even before the incidence of an outbreak. The company is prepared to provide a facility, staff and technology for the project and would welcome funding from the US, the UK, the World Health Organization and other public entities, according to Ripley Ballou, Glaxo’s vice president of vaccines.

“We’re in advanced discussions,” Ballou said. “GSK has now lived through Ebola and Zika, and we really feel that there needs to be a radical rethinking of vaccine development for this kind of target that has no commercial incentive but has epidemic potential. There is no mechanism today in government, academia and industry to do this.”

The drugmaker is currently developing a vaccine for zika, and is in talks with an international group, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, founded in 2016 by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Economic Forum, Wellcome Trust and the governments of Norway and India to finance the development of new vaccines, which could be a backer for Glaxo’s biopreparedness unit.

It is also reported that US lawmakers are considering the creation of a Federal Emergency Management Agency for public health, to quickly provide US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with funding and power in future crises.

Matt Fellows

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