Dr Richard Hatchett, CEO of CEPI has issued a statement welcoming today’s White House Summit on the Future of COVID-19 Vaccines, and calling for heightened investment to develop the next generation of globally accessible COVID-19 vaccines. Dr Hatchett will join a Summit panel on Innovation to Advance Vaccine Equity.
Watch the live stream here.
Dr Richard Hatchett, CEO of CEPI, said:
We urgently need better COVID-19 vaccines, so I applaud the Biden Administration’s convening today’s White House Summit and hope it will lead to heightened investment in COVID-19 vaccine R&D.
In January 2020 we didn’t know whether it was even possible to make an effective vaccine against a coronavirus, yet just 326 days after the viral sequence was released the first doses of approved vaccine were rolled out. Since then, more than 12 billion shots of multiple vaccines have been given worldwide, saving almost 20 million lives. This is an extraordinary achievement, but the progress we have made against COVID-19 is at serious risk. COVID-19 has spawned an alphabet soup of variants that are ever more capable of evading the protection afforded by our vaccines, causing wave after wave of infection. We will soon have new vaccines targeting the Omicron variant, but having to continually update our vaccines is not an optimal or desirable long-term strategy. The world needs to step up its investment in developing next-generation vaccines, with variant-proof, broadly-protective, and ideally transmission-blocking coronavirus vaccines at the forefront of these efforts. I am grateful for the funding provided by Congress and USAID for CEPI’s work to combat emerging infectious diseases, some of which will advance the development of globally accessible next-generation COVID-19 vaccines.
CEPI launched a call for proposals in March 2021 to advance vaccine technologies that could offer broad protection against coronaviruses and is now firmly established as a world leader in this field of research. We support a US$200million portfolio of 11 projects across a diverse range of vaccine technologies, with additional awards in the pipeline. The scientific challenges that will need to be overcome to develop such vaccines are significant, but the rewards to humankind – both in human and economic terms – if we are successful will be huge. We’re already collaborating with NIAID to accelerate the scientific progress of our respective portfolios, but to fully achieve their potential, such efforts need to become a truly global endeavor that delivers truly global benefits.
Public sector R&D investment helped deliver COVID-19 vaccines in record time, so I am dismayed that only a fraction of this funding is now available to develop vaccines that would keep the world safe from the virus in future. We will make progress much faster by working together in a concerted and coordinated global effort, and I welcome the leadership exhibited by the Biden Administration today in convening today’s Summit to foster such collaboration. With renewed political leadership, sustained investment, and a commitment to leaving no one behind, we can develop the next generation of COVID-19 vaccines, reduce the global impact of the virus, and overcome the tragic inequity that has marred the pandemic response to date.