Monday, 22 May 2017

Three solutions setting the pace of Immunisation - Thermostability, Affordability and Availability

The vaccine landscape is shifting, and new opportunities, challenges, and debates have pushed vaccines to the center of global health discussions. Thanks to vaccines and systematic immunization, the polio disease saw its final death knell. It is estimated that vaccines avert about 2-3 million deaths each year in all age groups and protect 83% (107 million) of infants worldwide from vaccine preventable diseases .

Immunity is gained without the consequence of being ill and without the risk of potential life-threatening complications from the disease. However, access to vaccines has been a critical issue in ensuring the health of children, especially in the developing countries. Access is currently limited due to limited money available for vaccine procurement, high prices of new vaccines for existing and emerging diseases and poor health delivery infrastructure in developing countries . Not just access, thermostability has been another cause for concern in case of vaccines. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that annually 10-50 percent of vaccines may be wasted globally because of temperature control, logistics and shipment-related issues. In low-resource settings, factors like tropical temperature, scarce resources, unreliable power, and long distances between healthcare facilities pose risks.

Innovation is the key to success!

As already discussed, a lot of factors contribute to vaccines not completely catering to those in need of it. The temperature sensitive nature of these vaccines leads to a loss in production as well as the supply chain. However, the last decade saw significant advances in developing, introducing and expanding the reach of vaccines globally. One of such measures was the ‘vaccine cold chain’ wherein vaccines are stored at refrigerated temperatures throughout the transport, storage, and handling of vaccines. The cold chain implies that the vaccine, from the time it is produced till the time it is consumed, stays in refrigerated conditions. Besides that, some companies are even researching methods to enhance the thermostability of vaccines. They have invented measures to maintain all the attributes of a vaccine even in unfavorable temperature conditions. Thermostable vaccines also help to decrease logistics cost by eliminating cold chain, which, in turn, allows for more economical pricing. As a result of this, vaccines can also be made available in remote and far-flung areas where temperatures are not naturally favorable.

Hence, it is fair to say that Thermostability, Affordability, and Availability go hand-in-hand and they hold the key to the success of immunization. The heart and soul of this field is innovation. Innovation is required to improve vaccine production as well as optimizing the supply chain. The recent wave of changes has created a tremendous opportunity for innovative technologies in this space, as companies that can help discover and deliver new vaccines could create enormous value.
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Monday, 15 May 2017

The Low Cost Meningococcal ACYWX Conjugate Vaccine: A Boon For The Developing World

Meningitis is the inflammation of the membranes that outline your brain and spinal cord. These membranes are called meninges, therefore, giving the illness, its name - “meningitis”. While viral meningitis is the most common, bacterial meningitis is more consequential. Lack of timely treatment can cause paralysis, stroke, seizures, sepsis, and even death. The symptoms of bacterial meningitis can begin quickly, sometimes as quick as in a couple of hours. In cases of development of the disease, one experiences nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, confusion and a rash of purple discoloration. There are several cases of bacterial meningitis –
1.) Streptococcus pneumoniae, also called pneumococcus
2.) Neisseria meningitidis, also called meningococcus
3.) Haemophilus influenzae type B, also called Hib
4.) Listeria monocytogenes
5.) Group B streptococcus
6.) E. coli

Amongst the leading causes of bacterial meningitis is “Neisseria meningitidis”; causes pneumonia, sepsis and other such infectious manifestations. The invasive disease affects 50,000 to 1.2 million people and is responsible for 135,000 deaths annually. As in the case of other infectious diseases, the majority of disease burden lies in developing countries. This includes meningococcal countries in the African meningitis belt, regions in South-East Asia as well as in the United States of America. Meningitis is also prevalent in Europe, the Eastern Mediterranean region and in Saudi Arabia. The recorded incidence of the endemic meningococcal disease is relatively low in India but such cases have occasionally appeared in the last 100 years. The disease is deadly and is contagious in people with close contact and can spread through coughing and sneezing. A person develops bacterial meningitis when bacteria gets into the bloodstream from the sinuses, ears or other parts of the upper respiratory tract.

There are 13 serogroups, but the majority of invasive meningococcal infections are caused by organisms from the A, B, C, X, Y, or W serogroups. While polyvalent conjugate vaccines targeting serogroups A, C, Y and W, are available, they are too expensive and therefore not widely used in developing countries due to affordability and accessibility issues. There are currently no low-cost polyvalent conjugate vaccines in the market that cover all five A, C, Y, W and X serogroups. Therefore, Hilleman Laboratories is currently working on a low - cost meningococcal ACYWX conjugate vaccine which provides protection against five types of serogroups. Researchers adopted a two- pronged strategy to develop low-cost combination vaccine for the treatment of invasive meningococcal disease.

“The role of the formulation in the vaccine scenario in terms of accessibility, affordability, and acceptability, besides the contribution in bridging the immunization gap in the country would also be assessed,” says Dr. Davinder Gill, CEO of Hilleman Laboratories. Developing Countries with high endemicity place an immense strain on the public healthcare system. The disease includes long-term risk of cognitive deficit, bilateral hearing loss, motor deficit, seizures, visual impairment, and loss of limbs due to tissue necrosis; the highest risks in low-income countries, where the burden of bacterial meningitis is greatest.

The novel cost Meningioccocal - ACYWX conjugate vaccine has the potential to significantly reduce costs and create new intellectual property allowing developing country manufacturers undertake more conjugate vaccine development projects. Technical success of the vaccines has been demonstrated in animal models. With accessibility and affordability issues in low-income countries, the vaccine could prove to be a boon for the developing nation.
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About Me

Hilleman Laboratories is a global vaccine research & development organization focused on making affordable vaccines using innovation to address gaps that exist in low resource settings. Hilleman Labs acts as a catalyst in bridging the gap between academic research and product development by targeting novel vaccines and increasing the efficiency of existing vaccines. Know More

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