A Collaborative Network to Support Resilient Vaccine Development Infrastructure

APRIL 2024

AAHI hosted a panel at the World Vaccine Congress 2024 in Washington D.C.

AAHI and its collaborators are advocating for establishment of a collaborative, government-funded network of Centers of Excellence for Vaccine Innovation and Development (“CoE”s) to address the need for effective, affordable, and sustainably sourced vaccines that can rapidly be manufactured, distributed, and administered around the world.

We convened a panel at the World Vaccine Congress on April 4 to discuss the proposed network of CoEs that will work collaboratively to build domestic infrastructure for  vaccine development featuring Dr. Maria-Elena Bottazzi1 ,Dr. Jay Evans2 , Dr. José Castillo3, and Kyle McGowan4. The discussion built on two key premises: 1) Vaccines can’t protect people they can’t reach; 2) No one is protected unless everyone is protected.

Candice Decaire, AAHI’s Chief Strategy Officer and General Counsel, framed the panel’s discussion by outlining the ambitious goal of the proposed network -- to establish a library of accessible and affordable vaccine components and candidates with established safety, that can rapidly be manufactured at commercial scale for mass distribution, to protect as many people as possible, as quickly as possible. The panel discussed the importance of building key accessibility considerations into early vaccine development – “baking in” sustainable sourcing, manufacturing feasibility, stability for storage and distribution, and ease of vaccine administration. There was general agreement around the importance of, and tremendous value that would result from, effective public-private partnerships to support that work.

AAHI hosted a follow-up discussion in Seattle with Lacy Fehrenbach, Chief Prevention Officer at the Washington State Department of Health, who played a pivotal role in the State’s response to the first COVID-19 case reported in the United States. Dr. Christopher Fox5 and Kyle McGowan explored how the proposed network of CoEs could  address unmet needs and help to improve the state’s ability rapidly to respond to future threats.

Both panels agreed that enabling the work of the proposed collaborative network of CoEs would go a long way toward addressing and resolving persistent gaps in our protection against emerging infectious disease threats. Reliable  year-over-year federal funding, at a fraction of the cost of COVID vaccine development through Operation Warp Speed, would permit the CoEs fully to engage in proactive, sustained, and mindful vaccine development efforts, to prepare and protect the nation and the world against the inevitable, yet unpredictable, next infectious threat.

AAHI brought the discussion local to discuss how the network of CoEs could be implemented when the first case of a health threat with pandemic potential is detected, as it was in Snohomish County.

Several key themes emerged in the panel discussions and Q&A sessions:

  • Disease X: We do not know what specific infectious health threat will next confront us. But we know Disease X is coming – accelerated by rapid climate change, global urbanization, political instability, and armed conflict - and we need to be prepared. The proposed CoEs would engage in proactive, “big picture” development leveraging their combined expertise to provide a toolbox of vaccine technologies to enable rapid response to Disease X.  
  • Public-Private Partnerships: Partnerships aligning public and private incentives  are essential to successful advancement of effective and accessible vaccines. As a collaborative network, the CoEs would pool their knowledge and work together to identify the best possible vaccine platforms and combinations of components for creating broadly protective vaccines that provide effective and long-lasting protection against infectious disease.
  • Mindful Vaccine Development:  It is essential to consider real-world accessibility of a vaccine from the very start of development. The proposed CoEs would work together to develop vaccines that are:
  • made from sustainable raw materials, to avoid or minimize supply chain issues, to ensure sufficient supply to meet global demand;
  • stable, so that they can be distributed and stored at ambient temperatures, with long shelf life;
  • manufactured with standard equipment and streamlined, simple processes that can be scaled to large quantities, to support rapid response and globally distributed production; and/or
  • easy to administer by means other than needle injection, for increased vaccine uptake and to reduce the burden on trained medical personnel.
  • Access to Formulations Technology:  Vaccine development has been handicapped by lack of access to sophisticated formulations technology, and in particular, adjuvant formulations technology. The proposed network would include CoEs at the forefront of adjuvant and formulations development, with their own innovative and sustainable formulations technology, well-equipped to develop robust, durable, and broadly protective vaccines.
  • Enabling Commercial-Scale Manufacturing: Rapid and effective response to Disease X requires a clear line of sight to globally distributed, large-scale manufacturing. The network of CoEs would include small-scale facilities for developing manufacturing processes (and producing vaccines for clinical trials) and would then transfer those manufacturing processes to their established commercial manufacturing partners, in readiness for emergency commercial-scale manufacturing needs.

We must prepare for the inevitable emergence (or re-emergence) of dangerous infectious diseases.  The COVID-19 pandemic starkly demonstrated the importance of preparedness – but there are still significant gaps in infrastructure for vaccine development, manufacturing, and distribution. There remains an urgent need for vaccines that are affordable and globally accessible. This urgency grows every day with  increased human exposure to pathogens and likelihood of transmission of infection. 

The fact that the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be waning does not justify complacency and does not in any way reduce the need to invest in vaccine development to prepare for Disease X.  Reactive investment as new threats arise is an unsustainable approach that cannot keep up with the evolution and spread of infectious diseases. We must build a strong   vaccine development infrastructure, with support from Congress, to address the Disease X threat by establishing and funding  the proposed collaborative network of CoEs.

Thank you to our panelists and our sincere gratitude for continued support from our partners and collaborators in the vaccine development ecosystem. We look forward to continuing to work together to innovate and develop powerful vaccines that can be made available to the people who need them, for truly effective global protection.

1. Senior Associate Dean, National school of Tropical Medicine, Professor of Pediatrics, Molecular Virology & Microbiology, Division Chief of Pediatric Tropical Medicine and Co-Director of Texas Children's Center for Vaccine Development at Baylor College of Medicine

2. Chief Scientific Officer, Inimmune Corporation and Director of the Center for Translational Medicine at the University of Montana

3. Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer of Univercells and Chief Executive Officer of Quantoom Biosciences 

4. Founding Partner of Ascendant Strategic Partners and Former Chief of Staff at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 

5. Senior Vice President, Formulations at AAHI