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A pandemic can be a powerful stimulus for innovation. Following the 1918 influenza pandemic, one of the deadliest in history, governments and health organizations poured millions of dollars into research on infectious diseases and vaccines to address them. This effort laid the groundwork for vaccines against yellow fever, polio, measles, rubella, and hepatitis A and B.

COVID-19 presents another opportunity to establish new vaccine R&D norms that could prevent future pandemics and check ongoing disease threats like malaria, TB and HIV. Less than one year after the virus was first identified, health agencies have approved safe and effective vaccines that are already being deployed in some communities to control the pandemic.

How to Transform Vaccine R&D

The record-breaking response to the COVID-19 pandemic proves that the vaccine R&D enterprise can respond with historic speed in the face of an emergency. Lessons learned from COVID-19 demonstrate opportunities, among them the power of cooperation, government commitment, and regulatory flexibility.

Restructuring R&D to produce essential vaccines for infectious diseases we already recognize, and for those yet to emerge, is imperative. Powering Vaccine R&D: Opportunities for Transformation is a new report published by the Sabin-Aspen Vaccine Science & Policy Group that examines the core components of the vaccine ecosystem and finds opportunities to transform and accelerate the development of vaccines.

The report proposes five “Big Ideas” to strengthen efficiency and responsiveness in vaccine R&D. They are:

  1. Define leadership roles and responsibilities, and establish mechanisms of accountability to prepare for the R&D demands that surface in a pandemic.
  2. Promote transdisciplinary research that brings people together across fields to expand and advance vaccine science.
  3. Restructure regulatory science and process to reflect advances in vaccine R&D.
  4. Reimagine clinical trials for more efficient and nimbler approaches .
  5. Position vaccines as a public good and align incentives so that all sectors of society benefit.

The value of vaccines has never been clearer. The time for innovation is at hand, and we must seize this unprecedented opportunity to reimagine vaccine R&D and usher in a new era of vaccines.

About the Sabin Aspen Vaccine Science & Policy Group

The Sabin-Aspen Vaccine Science & Policy Group, a partnership launched in 2018 between the Sabin Vaccine Institute and the Aspen Institute, brings together senior leaders across many disciplines to examine some of the most challenging vaccine-related issues and drive impactful change.

Members are influential, creative, out-of-the-box thinkers who vigorously probe a single topic each year and develop actionable recommendations to advance innovative ideas for the development, distribution and use of vaccines, as well as evidence-based and cost-effective approaches to immunization.

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