Britain’s largest charity, the Wellcome Trust, and pharmaceutical company Merck & Co. have joined together to create a non-profit, £90-million (about $150 million) research center in India to facilitate the development of new vaccines, “including [those for] neglected diseases for which inadequate or no vaccines exist.” According to Nature News, “the move marks the first time that a major medical-research charity and a pharmaceutical company have directly partnered to create vaccines aimed at low-income countries.”
Wellcome Trust Director Mark Walport said, “Linking the ingenuity of academic research with the know-how of industry is vital if we are to produce a new generation of vaccines to reduce the burden of infectious diseases in low-income countries.”
The joint venture has yet to decide which diseases it will tackle, but will base the decisions on criteria such as scientific and technical feasibility, affordability and whether vaccine formulations will meet the field and other needs of the large procurement agencies such as the WHO, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the GAVI Alliance.
“Affordability will be key in the technical and other choices all along the product design and development path,” said Mark Feinberg, Merck’s vice president of medical affairs and policy. “We really want to lower a lot of the barriers that exist for developing promising products.” The center is expected to open by the end of the year.