Vaccines: a world equipped to combat infectious disease
Vaccines are vital – they prevent disease, save countless lives and cut healthcare costs. But infections like malaria and typhoid still kill millions of people each year. And emerging diseases, such as Ebola and Lassa fever, can cause deadly epidemics. The world urgently needs better, faster ways to develop and use vaccines.
But more needs to be done to develop new vaccines, and to use existing ones in a better way.
Through this key area of work we want:
the world to have a new, coordinated and systematic approach to developing and using vaccines during the next epidemic
vaccine design and development to be informed by a better understanding of the people they’re intended to help
industry and policymakers to have the evidence they need to decide which vaccines to develop and use
countries to have the information and expertise to make sure the people who need it most are protected through immunisation.
Funding in this key area is in addition to the funding we already offer for research across all areas of science. Applications for our existing schemes won’t change and your research won’t stand a greater or lesser chance of being funded if it includes a focus on vaccines.
A huge opportunity
Vaccines already save at least 2 to 3 million lives every year.
Another 1.5 million deaths could be prevented each year through better vaccination coverage.
Making a safe vaccine typically takes more than 10 years.
The spread of infectious diseases like Ebola and Zika have shown how vulnerable the world is to epidemics.
Many of the infectious diseases that we know pose the greatest threat could be prevented with vaccines. But the vaccines we need aren’t being developed often enough or quickly enough – developing a vaccine from scratch typically takes more than 10 years.
We’re a founding partner in CEPI, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. CEPI will support development of vaccines against known threats, so they can be used to contain outbreaks before they become emergencies.
We're also funding WHO to develop Research and Development Blueprint roadmaps for Lassa, Nipah, and Ebola viruses. The roadmaps will serve as strategic plans that describe the research and development steps needed to accelerate the production of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics.
The studies involve vaccinating healthy volunteers and then deliberately exposing them to the infection, in a controlled setting, to test whether the vaccine works. It can give us an indication that a vaccine is safe and effective far more quickly than would be possible through large-scale population trials. Find out more about what human infection studies are and why we need them.
We’re calling for an expansion of these studies to make sure that vaccines are relevant to the people most at risk.
Through our funding we're supporting the establishement of human infection studies in several low- and middle-income countries.
In addition to funding, we're supporting the development of ethical and regulatory frameworks. Together with other funders of human infection studies, we've created and committed to a set of ethical principles to guide research and encourage a community of best practice. The aim is to speed up vaccine development and foster a supportive environment for future studies.
We supported researchers from low- and middle-income countries to attend the Second Human Challenge Trials Conference to talk about ethics, regulation and their experiences of human infection studies.
Evidence for decision-making
Governments, policymakers and international organisations like GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, rely on evidence to prioritise how best to use new and existing vaccines. Sometimes, though, they lack even basic data on how many people are dying from a particular disease.
We’re working to identify, support, share and apply relevant research so that decisions are based on better information.
We’re using Wellcome’s strong, longstanding research connections in low- and middle-income countries to increase the expertise of people who can influence and support national and global vaccines agendas. This includes regulators, policymakers, researchers and developers.
Why do we need vaccines?
Vaccines are one of our most effective health interventions, but are often misunderstood. In our Q&A, we explain what they are, how they work and why they are important.
Despite ethical concerns about research involving vulnerable populations, there are both scientific and ethical reasons to consider conducting more human infection studies in low- and middle-income countries where neglected diseases are often endemic.
The current language used to describe controlled human infection models is complex, with many different names being used. This report highlights issues with existing terminology and recommendations for new terminology. The recommended term identified is Human infection studies.
This report sets out how to develop the political support, financing and coordination required to build clinical research capacity in low- and middle-income countries, which is key to stemming the spread of epidemics.