New Initiative Will Focus on Public Health Preparedness for Emerging, Neglected Diseases

WASHINGTON, D.C. — November 16, 2015 — The Sabin Vaccine Institute Product Development Partnership (Sabin PDP) today signed a project agreement with King Saud University to build vaccine research and development capacity in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and advance the establishment of a vaccine research institute in Saudi Arabia. The project will focus on training activities that could lead to vaccine development for major and emerging neglected diseases and parasitic infections in the region.

As part of this U.S.-Saudi initiative, Saudi scientists, including students and faculty, from Prince Naif Bin Abdulaziz Health Research Center at King Saud University in Riyadh, and other Saudi institutions, will receive technical training in vaccine development processes at the Sabin PDP laboratories, in Houston, Texas. Both partners will work to build the necessary workforce needed for vaccine process development and scale-up in Saudi Arabia while also developing a total quality management system, including quality control and quality assurance.

“There is an urgent need to create regional capacity for developing vaccines that target major neglected tropical diseases in the MENA region, such as MERS coronavirus infection, leishmaniasis, rabies and others,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, president of Sabin, director of the Sabin PDP and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

As a U.S. Science Envoy traveling to Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia, Dr. Hotez has made several trips to the MENA region to mobilize support for greater resources and infrastructure to handle emerging public health threats. He added, “One of the lessons learned from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa was that we cannot depend on big pharmaceutical companies to produce vaccines for marginalized populations. Instead, it is incumbent upon innovative non-profit partnerships, such as this one, to develop safe, affordable vaccines for people living in the newest hot zones for these kinds of viral, parasitic and related infections.”

War and the ensuing health system breakdowns in Syria and Iraq, in particular, significantly increase the risk of a new wave of infectious disease epidemics in the MENA region, as they have previously done in war-torn areas of West Africa (Ebola virus infection), Sudan (kala-azar), and Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo (African sleeping sickness). Proactive engagement to strengthen health system capacity and resilience — including building biotechnology capacity for vaccines that specifically target diseases in the region — would help minimize the impact, if and when outbreaks occur.

“We are pleased to join the Sabin PDP in this exciting new initiative, which will have positive long-term public health implications for Saudi Arabia,” said Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Muammar of King Saud University. “Given the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, now is the time for coordinated action to prepare for the emergence of disease epidemics in the region. This innovative partnership will enable us to build up Saudi Arabia’s research and development infrastructure and develop a unique center of excellence and resources for the MENA region.”

The U.S. Science Envoy Program was announced by President Obama in 2009 and is a core element of the Administration’s commitment to global engagement in science and technology.  The Science Envoys travel as private citizens and share the knowledge and insights they gain abroad with the U.S. scientific community upon their return.  Science Envoys engage internationally at the citizen and government levels to develop partnerships, improve collaboration, and forge mutually beneficial relationships between other nations and the United States to stimulate increased scientific cooperation and foster economic prosperity.

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About the Prince Naif Translational Research Center

Prince Naif Bin AbdulAziz Health Research Center, or PNHRC, is relatively new health research Center that is considered as one of the initiatives launched by King Saud University to cope with country's development plans, to become a knowledge-based economy. It comes as the main research arm of the prestigious and well respected King Saud University Medical City (the collective name for the university’s hospitals).  Its main mission is to provide the infrastructure and the manpower to support and develop the research ideas which serve the scientific research and contribute in providing solutions for the health problems in the Kingdom.

About The Sabin Vaccine Institute and the Sabin Vaccine Institute Product Development Partnership

The Sabin Vaccine Institute (Sabin) is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to reducing needless human suffering from vaccine-preventable and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) worldwide. Sabin develops new vaccines, advocates for increased use of existing vaccines and promotes expanded access to affordable medical treatments in collaboration with governments, academic institutions, scientists, medical professionals and non-profit organizations. For more information, please visit www.sabin.org.

Sabin’s research and development of new vaccines is conducted through the Sabin Vaccine Institute Product Development Partnership (Sabin PDP), based at the Sabin Vaccine Institute and Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development in partnership with Baylor College of Medicine. The Sabin PDP works with leading private, academic and public institutions around the world to develop and test safe, effective and low-cost vaccines that benefit the world’s poorest communities. A complete overview of ongoing projects and partners is available at www.sabin.org/pdp

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