As a unique feature of Terrapinn conferences, the roundtable discussions serve as an interactive platform for meaningful discussion. At World Vaccine Congress Asia 2014, Do Tuan Dat, President & General Director of Vabiotech, Vietnam, moderated the discussion on the topic of “Forging Strategic Partnership for R&D to Meet High Demands for Vaccines in Asia”.
A consensus was reached among the delegates about the importance of partnerships among Asian countries for vaccine development. The development of Hand, Foot, & Mouth Disease (HFMD) vaccine was cited as an example. As HFMD only happens in Asian countries, Asian biotechs cannot rely on big Pharma and other Western countries for technology transfer. Asian biotechs and Asian countries need to collaborate and share their knowledge to eliminate HFMD diseases together. This collaboration could be made possible through virus sharing. Each company or country can find their own virus strain as their raw materials, and share their information (including clinical trial data) afterwards. But, realistically, profit margin and Intellectual Property (IP) issues would halt the virus sharing idea.
Another major point that was brought up was about partnerships in developing universal vaccines. To develop effective vaccines that work globally, biotechs, usually, need to conduct clinical trials at multiple countries. However, multi-country clinical trials are very challenging due to the different regulatory environment in different countries. For instance, in Vietnam, as mentioned by Do Tuan Dat, government has rejected many vaccine clinical trial requests. Another example mentioned is the slow approval of HPV Vaccine approval in China. Again, the adoption of a vaccine product depends on the public health significance of that particular vaccine in a particular country. Thus, only Business-to-Business (B2B) and Government-to-Government (G2G) Partnerships could address the problem of slow adoption of vaccine products.
Since most R&D breakthroughs were produced by Research Institutes and Universities, the challenge was to connect the new breakthroughs from RI and uni to biotech companies. Universities need to be more responsive on the needs of the industries. In other words, RIs and universities’ scientists need to know how do they get something that biotechs and companies are interested in. After those breakthroughs happened, the challenge is to find the correct partner and investor who have the same mission. Of course, in this partnership, public policy and regulatory requirement need to be considered as well.