Dr. Casimiro is a Director of Vaccine Basic Research at Merck & Co. and he delivered a great presentation about the future of vaccines highlighting the main challenges and opportunities facing the industry at the World Vaccine Congress.
Many challenges remain ahead of us for discovery and development according to Dr. Casimiro. There are emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, there is still no effective vaccine against HIV, malaria and TB and the globally aging population is going to create a new set of demands.
When dealing with novel vaccines, there are an increasing number of cell substrates that are becoming available for heterologous protein expression for human vaccine development. These tools increase the likelihood for successfully expressing appropriately folded recombinant proteins from a variety of microorganisms.
To increase response rates and magnitude of the immune responses or simplify the immunization regimen, new adjuvants are needed. Casimiro says we also need to improve durability of protective efficacy. However, current US trends in the licensure of new products containing novel adjuvants indicate continuing challenges to developers.
One of the most significant changes that has been happening are new partnership models. In addition to biotech partnerships, there are now partnerships with US and EU governments and private foundations. Most of the funding overlap is in HIV, Malaria, TB and influenza.
Merck is working on novel vaccine programs for mosquito-borne viral diseases, and diseases and largely impacting the poor, like HIV, malaria and TB. Merck is also partnering on vaccine programs for Dengue and Chikungunya with the NIH. Merck has also made technology available to PATH to support malaria vaccine development. Merck is supplying antigen design, antigen production and carrier conjugation.