Vaccine development can take up to a decade, which doesn’t work when an infectious disease is spreading across the globe. How can manufacturers help to deliver more quickly?
The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) is on a mission to explore whether new vaccines could be developed against emerging infectious diseases within just 100 days. With their recent successes and a range of advantages over traditional vaccine platforms, emerging rapid response technologies, like mRNA, are expected to play a significant role in achieving this goal.
Acceleration of vaccine development
Before COVID-19, Merck held the record for the fastest modern vaccine ever developed. The company began formulating ERVEBO™ in 2014 while the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) epidemic raged in West Africa. The live attenuated vaccine was authorised by the EMA and FDA five years later in 2019 — half the time than normal.1,2
When the COVID-19 pandemic first began, the highly transmissible disease took a matter of months to become a global health emergency at a scale the modern world had never seen. As the virus continued to spread and mutate, all hopes of a way out were pinned on a vaccine.
Single and multi-nation funding opportunities flooded in. Devex’s global COVID-19 funding dashboard recorded $172 million invested in vaccine research between 1 January 2020 and 27 June 2020.3 With the world watching, the biopharmaceutical community got to work.
Impact of rapid vaccine distribution
Just 326 days after SARS-CoV-2 was first sequenced, the FDA approved Pfizer and BioNTech’s Comirnaty® under Emergency Use Authorization (EUA).4 This turnaround was not only significantly faster than any previous vaccines, but the formulation also leveraged a vaccine technology that hadn’t been widely used in patients before: mRNA.
On its 100 Days website, CEPI applauds this record-breaking development timeline. But it also argues that if these 326 days had been reduced to under 100, millions more lives could have been saved. According to CEPI: “Achieving the 100 Days Mission would give the world a fighting chance of containing a future outbreak before it spreads to become a global pandemic.”
UK investment in health innovations
The UK Government is behind the effort to reduce vaccine development timelines. The mission was first put forward during the UK’s G7 Presidency of June 2021, with support from representatives of the life sciences industry. In 2022, global governments pledged a combined $1.5 billion towards the ‘pandemic-busting plan,’ which involves the investigation of rapid response vaccine technologies.5 So, where do we go from here?
As of early 2023, a vaccine manufacturing facility — the mRNA Innovation and Technology Centre (MITC) — is being established in the UK. The facility will be used to develop and manufacture mRNA vaccines against respiratory viruses. It aims to strengthen the UK’s response capabilities and preparedness for any emergent health risks.
This national mission shows a commitment towards advancing technologies to ensure preparedness for health threats. With continuous effort, vaccine development within 100 days could move from a goal to a lifesaving reality.
 Wolf, J et al. Development of Pandemic Vaccines: ERVEBO Case Study. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7996233/
 Gavi. From biodefence to the DRC: How the Ebola vaccine became one of the fastest vaccines to license in history. https://www.gavi.org/vaccineswork/biodefence-drc-how-ebola-vaccine-became-one-fastest-vaccines-license-history
 Devex. Who’s funding the COVID-19 response and what are the priorities? https://www.devex.com/news/interactive-who-s-funding-the-covid-19-response-and-what-are-the-priorities-96833
 CEPI. 100 Days. https://100days.cepi.net/100-days/
 CEPI. Global community comes together in support of 100 Days Mission and pledges over $1.5 billion for CEPI’s pandemic-busting plan. https://cepi.net/news_cepi/global-community-comes-together-in-support-of-100-days-mission-and-pledges-over-1-5-billion-for-cepis-pandemic-busting-plan/