49 competitors have registered for the EU Vaccine Prize and now have until 3 September to submit their inventions to an expert jury. The EU is offering a reward of €2 million in an effort to stimulate innovative approaches to formulating or transporting vaccines.
It can be challenging to deliver vaccines intact and at a stable temperature, particularly in developing and tropical countries where transport and energy infrastructure are weak.
The global push to eradicate polio, for example, requires bringing vaccines to people in rural villages in mountainous regions of Pakistan. Yet stronger incentives are needed to encourage new thinking in the area.
In an interview with Vaccines Today, Dr Ruxandra Draghia-Akli, Director of the Health Directorate at the European Commission’s research directorate, said that even viable ideas that do not win the prize money could be commercialised.
“While the prize would reward the idea judged by experts as being the best, the entire field will be moved forward. Let’s imagine we have both storage and transportation proposals, both technologies could be used at a later time to meet the needs of a particular country or even adapted to a certain type of vaccine,” Draghia-Akli explained.
The competition is open to individuals and organisations eligible to apply for European research funding, i.e. from EU member states and some neighbouring countries.
Meanwhile, vaccines research is expected to benefit from a new €3.45 billion Innovative Medicines Initiative which will run from 2014 until 2020.
The fund builds on the existing €2 billion IMI initiative which comes to a close at the end of 2013. The new, larger ‘IMI 2’ is jointly funded by the European Commission and Europe’s pharmaceutical industry.
The risk and costs of developing new vaccines, medicines and treatments are soaring, as is the complexity of diseases and of the scientific challenge, according to the European Commission.
“No government, industry sector or research community can overcome these challenges on its own. Cooperation at EU level between the public and private sectors is the only way forward.”
Among the stated goals of the IMI2 is to create a new vaccine or treatment for Alzheimer’s disease.