How to expedite vaccine R&D in response to Disease X - A reanalysis in light of COVID-19



“Disease X, we said back then, would likely result from a virus originating in animals and would emerge somewhere on the planet where economic development drives people and wildlife together. Disease X would probably be confused with other diseases early in the outbreak and would spread quickly and silently; exploiting networks of human travel and trade, it would reach multiple countries and thwart containment. Disease X would have a mortality rate higher than a seasonal flu but would spread as easily as the flu. It would shake financial markets even before it achieved pandemic status. In a nutshell, COVID-19 is Disease X.” - Dr Peter Daszak, WHO R&D Blueprint


In 2018, a group from the Cambridge branch of Polygeia produced a policy report outlining recommendations for governing global health organisations which could be implemented to improve preparedness for the emergence of ‘Disease X’. The third section of this report, ‘R&D Challenges’, presented a review of the challenges facing the rapid research and development of a vaccine in response to a novel pathogen, and the current policies in place to address those challenges.


In a new report, we discuss each of these challenges in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, and make a number of recommendations to aid acceleration of the vaccine R&D response in the current and future epidemics.


In particular, we highlight the need for a central organisation to oversee the technical, scientific and policy-based challenges facing end-to-end vaccine development, and suggest that the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness (CEPI) could grow to fill this space.


Link to full report here.


by Alice Fletcher-Etherington, University of Cambridge

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