Thoughts from the World Vaccine Congress
Managing the H1N1 outbreak in 2009 was considered a practice run for the recent SARS-CoV2 pandemic and, over the last two years, we certainly learned a great deal in being prepared for the next virus to gain a foothold. That was the backdrop as we returned to the World Vaccine Congress in Washington, DC.
One of the topics discussed during presentations, and in the exhibition hall, was the idea and need for de-centralized manufacturing. When looking back at the vaccination rates during the initial months of the CoV2, rates were disproportionate by manufacturing location. Latin America, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Africa had significantly lower rates compared to countries where vaccine manufacturing was more localized.
However, there are many challenges when implementing a plan for decentralized manufacturing:
- Aligning regulatory support
- Solving supply chain issues
- Talent recruitment and training standardization
- Development and technical transfer of processes
Emerging and infectious disease generated a ton of interest, especially flu. Clinical trials updates were also popular, and it was noted that Moderna discussed shifting attention from COVID back to its personalized cancer vaccine program.
The take-away from attending various talks was that speakers generally focused on Influenza and respiratory vaccines, safety, and clinical trial updates. When discussing the production of vaccines and therapies, quality and safety shared the spotlight with bioprocess and manufacturing.
Cancer and immunotherapies, bioprocess, characterization and release testing, and public policy were also broadly discussed and debated. Discussions seem to conclude that COVID is still a pandemic, but many believe it will become more flu-like, with data suggesting that three vaccinations provide the greatest immunity to COVID variants.
Of special note, the interest in mRNA vaccines and therapeutics is high amongst those who took part in discussions, with new RNA programs already being established and new vaccine and therapeutic companies are being launched with a focus on RNA. There is also substantial interest from not-for-profit organizations.
Overall, those attending were glad to be back in an in-person environment to discuss findings and what the future might hold with the research and development that was accelerated over the past couple of years.