(Bloomberg) — As the Zika virus spreads and fuels concern, GlaxoSmithKline PLC is proposing the creation of a body dedicated to developing drugs for diseases with little commercial market.
The London-based company is ready to provide a facility, staff and technology, and would welcome funding from the United States, the United Kingdom, the World Health Organization, and other public entities, Ripley Ballou, Glaxo’s vice president of vaccines, said in a phone interview.
While big pharma can make a profit from some vaccines such as seasonal flu shots, there’s little financial incentive for conditions like Zika or Ebola that affect mostly developing nations, unless governments and public agencies guarantee they will stockpile the products.
“We’re in advanced discussions,” Ballou said. “GSK has now lived through Ebola and Zika and we really feel that there needs to be a radical rethinking of vaccine development for this kind of target that has no commercial incentive but has epidemic potential. There is no mechanism today in government, academia and industry to do this.”
Glaxo is working to develop a vaccine for Zika, though testing on humans won’t start until next year at the earliest. The proposed bio-preparedness unit would work on dangerous pathogens even before an outbreak, according to Ballou, tackling diseases such as the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, which has now spread beyond the Arabian peninsula.
In the United States, lawmakers are also contemplating the creation of a sort of Federal Emergency Management Agency for public health, to quickly give the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funding and power in future crises. The creation of a $300 million Infectious Diseases Rapid Response Reserve Fund is now part of a House bill and could become law after the November elections.
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