Why when vaccine trials fail it is a sad day for global public health

dengue vaccineIt saddens me to read about failed clinical trials in vaccines for many reasons, but mostly because of the impact these failures might have on the wider global vaccine research and development.

With the recent news about Sanofi Pasteur's not as effective phase II trial results for their Dengue Fever vaccine, it just made me think how this will affect other companies and institutes view new initiatives when it comes to planning and investing in research.

The result leaves uncertain the future of a product that Sanofi has previously said could generate more than 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion) in yearly sales. Overall efficacy was 30.2 percent – statistically insignificant and a far cry from the 70 percent-plus protection that researchers had anticipated at the start of the company-funded trial. The poor outcome was down to the failure of the vaccine to protect against one type of dengue virus, which turned out to be the prevalent one in Thailand at the time of the study. The mosquito-borne disease, also known as “breakbone fever”, is a threat to nearly 3 billion people and is caused by four different types of virus, none of which confers immunity from the others. (Source: Reuters)

Will this less than satisfying result put a hold on investment in the area of new vaccine development? What could be done earlier on in the design phase to foresee and prevent trials from having less than satisfactory results? Will the industry continue to be open minded about life-saving research?


We will get more insight into this story and the Dengue Vaccine data from Eric Plenneveux at the World Vaccine Congress Lyon on the 18th October. The interesting thing is that we will also hear from Malcolm Thomas, CEO of Arbovax, on their data from a pivotal non human primate trial of their tetravalent Dengue Vaccine.

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