We Need a Vaccine Development Fund for ‘Death Valley:’ Mahmoud Explains

Written by
Ed Sullivan, The Wall Street Journal
July 29, 2015

There may be numerous infectious diseases that regularly claim untold numbers of lives around the world, but there are few vaccine candidates for combating these ailments. The reasons are not new – the pharmaceutical industry may deem the markets not sufficiently profitable to recover needed investments and governments have not provided sufficient incentives. The recent scramble to cope with Ebola illustrated the problem. And so, three prominent physicians last week published an essay in The New England Journal of Medicine in which they propose a new $2 billion fund to provide industry and institutional researchers with money to undertake vaccine discovery and development. We spoke with one of those physicians – Adel Mahmoud, a former head of vaccines at Merck who is now a professor at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and the Department of Molecular Biology at Princeton University – about the idea and how it would work. This is an excerpt…

Pharmalot: How did this idea originate?

Mahmoud: We all have an interest in – and backgrounds in working with – vaccines, as you know. There’s Jeremy Farrar, who is director of the Wellcome Trust [a large charitable foundation in the U.K.] and Stanley Plotkin, who was the medical director at Pasteur [the forerunner to Sanofi Pasteur]. So you have three people who have been deeply involved in vaccines, all at a very central level, and who understand the process behind discovery and the barriers to discovery...