When the Brussels-based manufacturer GSK announced the news that its malaria vaccine candidate was effective, it quickly became clear that the company’s sales would soar. It might have risen even higher had it not been just one of several drug firms, as well as non-profit health organizations, partnering with GSK. In addition to scientific expertise, the global research and testing-large pharmaceutical companies have huge cash reserves and the credit lines of banks to expedite approvals and satisfy eager governments. So thanks to some deeply collaborative partnerships—none of which was created specifically for malaria—the results, as well as the drug, are just about as optimistic as possible, considering how extraordinarily dangerous the disease is.
This collaboration among partners not only led to the news of a new drug for malaria, but to another for non-human primates. Scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases reported that they had discovered that by selectively targeting parts of a chimpanzee immune system called the interferon-gamma system, the vaccine was capable of enhancing a chimpanzee’s immune response. This finding further validates that such a vaccine can actually help control a disease.
If all goes well, there could be a similar vaccine by 2020 for humans, due to government grants already awarded to the partners. Until then, two decades after the first cure for smallpox arrived in the U.S., we are still far from any real cure for any infectious disease.