Adaptations to existing vaccines account for half of vaccine R&D projects

R&D for vaccine adaptations

The characteristics of a vaccine – such as its thermostability, number of doses required, or the serotypes it targets – have a substantial impact on how immunisation programmes can be effectively implemented, particularly in low-resource settings. Often, the best combination of characteristics becomes apparent once a vaccine has been rolled out in real-world settings. Once this happens, further R&D is required to improve the vaccine.

The Access to Vaccines Index has evaluated the pipelines of eight vaccine companies: Daiichi Sankyo, GSK, Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co., Inc., Pfizer, Sanofi, Serum Institute of India and Takeda (see figure 8). The industry is responding to cases where existing vaccines need to be adapted: such projects account for 48% of projects in the pipeline (43/89), with one project aiming for multiple adaptations (see figure 9).

Some 30% of adaptive R&D projects involve multivalent vaccines. For example, Serum Institute of India is developing a 10-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV). It targets the serotypes prevalent in 70% of the population affected by pneumococcal disease in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Meanwhile, 28% of adaptive R&D projects focus on either characterising or improving the temperature stability of a vaccine, and 44% target a range of other improvements, including in efficacy, immunisation schedules, yield of production, or formulations to allow for easier administration.

Companies are working on wide variety of vaccine adaptations

Taken as a group, the 43 adaptive R&D projects are diverse, with companies working toward a wide variety of adaptations. For example, GSK is characterising the thermostability of its PCV Synflorix®; Sanofi is doing the same for its cholera vaccine Shanchol®; and in 2015, Merck & Co., Inc. received Controlled Temperature Chain approval for its HPV vaccine Gardasil®. Five projects focus on approving vaccines for use in lower age groups: including GSK for influenza vaccines and Sanofi for a meningoccocal vaccine. Serum Institute of India received approval in late 2014 for children under one year to receive a 5 µg dose of its meningococcal A vaccine (MenAfriVac®).