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R&D news in brief

Our weekly round-up of drug discovery and development stories.

Low returns deter vaccine R&D

That companies must work diligently to achieve relatively modest returns on the sale of vaccine products is driving away the incentive to ìeradicate some of the biggest killer diseasesî in the world, said Professor Vincent Lawton, president of the Association for the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) and head of Merck Sharp and Dohme. Speaking at an ABPI event, Professor Lawton complained that purchasers from around the world of vaccine products had colluded to drive down prices, and that unless there was a ìsensibleî agreement between governments and the pharma industry to incentivise vaccine R&D, shortages would likely occur, as happened when Chiron's flu product factory was closed in 2004.

GSK chief proffers PPPs

The pharmaceutical industry must invest in innovation and stand by its commitment to tackle diseases that afflict the developing world, and this sustained effort could be funded through public-private partnerships, according to Jean-Pierre Garnier, chief executive officer of GlaxoSmithKline. Writing in the Financial Times, JP called for ìnew approachesî to help pharma firms get around the ìlimited profit to be madeî from conducting R&D into new vaccines. `One solution is the public-private partnership model,' he wrote, naming by example GSK partners the Gates Foundation and the UK government. `This is a new model which utilises the respective strengths of each partner and enables us all to do what we could not do alone. They [PPPs] liberate our R&D model from the constraints of using shareholder funds.î

BA moves to block animal testing

A move by British Airways (BA), seemingly to placate enraged animal rights extremists, to enforce a blanket ban on the transport of live animals for use in scientific experiments has reportedly led to concern at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). BA opted to bring in the policy at a time when extremists had led demonstrations at the airline's offices and vandalised cars and homes of executives working at airports company BAA. ìYou are now a target for usî was said to have been sprayed on one executive's home in Surrey. However, the DTI is understood to have said that the move will only serve to encourage the actions of extremists, as well as send out the `wrong' messages to workers in the pharma industry. CEO of the Medical Research Council, Colin Blakemore, also cast doubt over BA's decision.

Separately, study findings published last week, from the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, said that alternatives to animal experiments should be found and used by researchers to spare animals. It noted that while it was unlikely that animal testing would cease in the short-term, practical advances towards replacing animals would take the heat out of the conflict between people on the matter.

30th September 2008

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