ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Despite manufacturer concerns about vaccine profitability in the past, new U-M research shows that the number of vaccines in development by manufacturers globally more than doubled to over 350 separate products from 1995 through 2008.
Over the same period, the number of organizations working on new vaccines also more than doubled, to almost 140 worldwide.
Those are the findings of new University of Michigan research currently available online in the journal Vaccine.
“Vaccines have typically been seen by industry as having limited profit potential, compared with therapeutic drugs,” says Matthew M. Davis, M.D., M.A.P.P.
, associate professor of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases and Internal Medicine and lead author in the study. “But our study results indicate very strong growth in this industry, suggesting that vaccines are not only rewarding medically—they also are rewarding for the companies that develop them.”
Davis and his team — aware of increasing consolidation in the number of vaccine manufacturers over the last three decades — set out to understand how the vaccine industry had changed over time. A decreasing number of manufacturers has been blamed, in part, for recent shortages of vaccines.
Researchers wanted to know whether there was a trend toward more or less innovation and whether they should expect more new vaccines or declining interest by manufacturers in the near future.
Over the last century, vaccines have greatly reduced health problems and deaths related to multiple infectious diseases in the U.S. and worldwide, and they are an ongoing focus of technological innovation. The late 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s were a period of unprecedented growth in the number of new vaccines recommended for children, adolescents, and adults in the U.S., Davis says.
Davis and his colleagues used a global pharmaceutical industry database, which contains data on over 41,000 pharmaceutical compounds. For each vaccine, information was available regarding the type of vaccine and its sponsoring company. Researchers focused on the research and development pipeline for vaccines between 1995 and 2008.
In addition, Davis and his colleagues studied the vaccine development patterns of four major vaccine manufacturers active in the U.S. market during the study period. All four also had drug therapies they were developing at the same time. The researchers also found that three of the four companies markedly increased the share of their total pharmaceutical product portfolio dedicated to vaccine development during that period of time.
Researchers found that in just over a decade, the overall global vaccine industry grew to more than double its prior size. This growth principally occurred in the numbers of biotechnology companies that are responsible for research on new vaccines, early in product development.
“These findings indicate that the coming years may yield a remarkable number of new vaccines in the U.S. and around the world — including vaccines against illnesses such as malaria, norovirus (diarrheal illness), Staphylococcus (skin infections), and HIV/AIDS.”
Additional authors: Amy T. Butchart, M.P.H., University of Michigan; Margaret S. Coleman, Ph.D., Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Dianne C. Singer, University of Michigan; John R.C. Wheeler, Ph.D., University of Michigan; Angela Pok, University of Michigan; Gary L. Freed, M.D., M.P.H., University of Michigan
Funding: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Patents/conflict disclosures: None
Journal reference: doi:10.1016/j.vaccine.2009.11.007