Infectious diseases — including HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria — are a leading cause of death worldwide, particularly in low income countries and among young children. A new study found that the vaccines aimed to prevent many of the world’s most deadly diseases may not be developed any time soon.
The study, funded by the Gates Foundation and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, focused on 538 products that are currently being developed for 35 neglected diseases. Based on the total cost and likelihood of each drug reaching production, the study concluded that current spending is insufficient to make any real progress towards combating these diseases by the year 2030. According to the study, the world’s total research spending — about $3 billion annually — is only a third of what’s needed to develop effective vaccines. In fact, research indicates that an estimated $2.5 billion is required to develop a single drug alone. Despite the urgency, funding for the cause (across government donors, private foundations and pharmaceutical companies combined) has declined since the 2009 financial crisis.
Nevertheless, some scientists are more optimistic, believing that while many of these drugs may not be completely protective, protection at the 50-60% level is possible in the near future. In other words, a given vaccine may be effective for roughly half of all individuals who receive the drug. Approximately 125 new products are expected to reach production within the next 12 years, though these will consist largely of new diagnostic tests (including tests for tuberculosis) and improved flu shots for individuals age 65 and older.
Despite the fact that the United Nations has included ending the epidemics of AIDs, tuberculosis, and malaria by the year 2030 as part of their Sustainable Development Goals, the decrease in research spending represents one of the greatest obstacles facing scientific development today.
Managing Correspondent: Tarraneh Eftekhari
Original Journal Article: Developing new health technologies for neglected diseases – Gates Open Research
Press Article: Vaccines Against H.I.V., Malaria and Tuberculosis Unlikely, Study Says – New York Times