According to a report from The Guardian, major pharmaceutical companies threw up roadblocks to a plan by the European Union to push forward with a major vaccine research effort well before pandemics hit.
The report notes that back in 2017, the EU's executive branch pushed a proposal to put the development of vaccines on the fast-track only to have major drugmakers reject the suggestion.
"The commission’s argument had been that the research could 'facilitate the development and regulatory approval of vaccines against priority pathogens, to the extent possible before an actual outbreak occurs'. The pharmaceutical companies on the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), however, did not take up the idea," the report states.
According to the report, the IMI includes "representatives of a group that includes GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson as members," and receives funding from the EU set at $54.4 billion.
"The world’s 20 largest pharmaceutical companies undertook around 400 new research projects in the past year, according to Bloomberg Intelligence. Around half were focused on treating cancer, compared with 65 on infectious diseases," the Guardian reports. "There are eight potential vaccines for coronavirus in clinical trials, but there is no guarantee of success. One of the most promising, being developed at Oxford University, is said to have only a 50% chance of being approved for use. The COE report says that rather than “compensating for market failures” by speeding up the development of innovative medicines, as per its remit, the IMI has been 'more about business-as-usual market priorities'."
The Guardian report adds, "Minutes of a meeting of the IMI’s governing board from December 2018 reveal that the proposal was not accepted. The IMI also decided against funding projects with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, a foundation seeking to tackle so-called blueprint priority diseases such as Mers and Sars, both of them coronaviruses."
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