Based on an a medRχiv Working paper of Vu by et al. (2020)The answer from an analysis of other emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) is an overwhelming “yes”. The authors analyze hypothetical investment returns on a portfolio of 141 preclinical emerging infectious disease (EID) vaccine development programs for various emerging non-vaccine infections. These 9 diseases of interest that were modeled include: CCHF, Chikungunya, Lassa, Marbur, MERS, Nipah, RVF, SARS, and Zika. Their analysis showed that:
The cost and risk of R&D programs and the uniquely unpredictable demand for EID vaccines have discouraged vaccine developers, and government and nonprofits have been unable to provide timely or sufficient incentives for their development and sustainable supply. We analyze the economic returns on a portfolio of EID vaccines and find that under realistic funding assumptions, the expected returns are significantly negative, meaning the private sector is unlikely to meet these needs without public sector intervention.
Note that before COVID, we saw a trend toward fewer life science companies willing to engage in vaccine research and development. A forward-looking STAT news article from January stated: “Pharmaceutical companies don’t have much financial incentive to invest R&D money in new vaccines and antibiotics, making the world vulnerable to future pandemics. ”
The authors suggested some approaches to better promote vaccine development through higher prices, improved public-private partnerships (e.g. government-sponsored guarantees), and subscription models. Because of its significant externalities, vaccine development is an area where public-private partnerships are highly desirable.
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