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"Vaccines and virus-based diseases" task force to develop priorities for research projects

On an initiative of Mrs. Cresson, Commissioner for research and development, Mr. Bangemann, Commissioner for industry, telecommunications and information technologies, and Mr. Kinnock, Commissioner for transport, the European Commission has set up six task forces to develop in...

On an initiative of Mrs. Cresson, Commissioner for research and development, Mr. Bangemann, Commissioner for industry, telecommunications and information technologies, and Mr. Kinnock, Commissioner for transport, the European Commission has set up six task forces to develop industrial common research projects in order to reinforce European competitiveness. This article examines the task force which focuses on vaccines and virus-based diseases: Out of 50 million deaths worldwide per annum, 17 million are caused by transmittable virus-based diseases. Vaccination is an efficient and relatively cheap means of dealing with this problem. Research on vaccines is highly important given the persistent nature of some of these diseases, their proliferation and the emergence of new diseases. AIDS, hepatitis and ebola are just some examples of viruses which must be combated. In economic terms, the world vaccine market accounts for ECU 3 billion and could reach 6 billion by the end of the century. The US holds 50% of the market and Europe 28%. The average time spent developing a vaccine is 12 years and costs in the region of ECU 250 million. In Europe, six companies are mainly responsible for research on vaccines, alongside a few small companies which specialize in biotechnology. The largest research effort on vaccines is made by the big US companies and the US government. The US companies rely heavily on their domestic market, which is large and where prices are high. This gives them a major competitive advantage. However, the European market has certain advantages. The European pharmaceutical industry is one of the highest performers in the world and the European Medicine Agency, which is supported by the European Union, is helping to develop a more harmonized approach to regulation. The task force has two duties. The first is to assess the European situation as to research on vaccines and viruses. The second is to propose an action plan for research to improve the position of European industry and to pursue the most promising activities at the European Union level. Consultations have been held with industry to identify the technological problems, needs and priorities. So far, agreement has been reached that: - Research on vaccines and production needs to be improved; - New vaccines or treatments are needed for AIDS, hepatitis, tuberculosis and malaria; - The emergence of new viruses has shown the importance of setting up watchdog and rapid action structures; - Improvements are necessary to the effectiveness of the immunity afforded by vaccines. Action programme for the remainder of 1995: - An intermediary report is being prepared; - A series of further meetings will be held in the coming months on specific subjects with experts from industry, the public sector and the scientific world; - Following these meetings, a new initiative will be proposed, leading to the launch of projects of common industrial interest, linking industry, national institutions and the scientific and medical community. For details on the five other task forces, please see the relevant record on the RTD-News database (identified by its RCN number): - Multimedia educational software (RCN 4288); - The car of the future (RCN 4289); - The new generation of aeroplanes (RCN 4290); - The train of the future (RCN 4292); - Transport intermodality (RCN 4293).

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