Glaxo’s Ebola Vaccine and the Rise of Tropical-Disease R&D
Friday, September 12, 2014
One surprising feature of the Ebola outbreak is that drug giant GlaxoSmithKline PLC was already developing a vaccine for the disease, which kills fewer than 100 people on average a year. Are drug companies finally becoming more interested in neglected tropical diseases?
Sure, Glaxo’s Ebola vaccine is more a serendipitous asset than a strategic investment—the U.K. drug maker acquired it as part of a 2013 takeover of Swiss vaccine specialist Okairos, which it bought primarily because of a technology Okairos had to transfer genetic material to patients’ cells via viruses.
But financial arguments may finally be leading Big Pharma to increase its minuscule investment in research and development of new drugs for tropical diseases.
Industry R&D spending on diseases including Ebola, malaria, dengue, tuberculosis and a number of parasitic worms rose almost 20% a year between 2008 and 2012, according to data provider G-Finder, a search tool funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.