This new office marks IVI’s first expansion since the founding of its headquarters in Seoul, Korea in 1997 as a UN treaty-based international organization.
With its decision on May 18 to host IVI, the Swedish Parliament has now cleared the way for IVI to launch operations from Europe and begin staffing its second location. IVI is well-positioned to create a regional hub for global health research, innovation, and collaboration in Sweden and develop deeper partnerships across Europe and Africa, where many of IVI’s projects take place.
In anticipation of the Parliament’s positive decision, the IVI Board of Trustees (BOT) held its twice-yearly face-to-face meeting in Stockholm this May. The BOT meeting was an opportunity for Board members to meet with key partners in Sweden and to onboard two new members: Dr. Ximena Garzón Villalba, Minister of Public Health of Ecuador, and Dr. Leon Mutesa, Professor and Director of the Center for Human Genetics at the University of Rwanda. Drs. Villalba and Mutesa represent Ecuador and Rwanda, two member states of IVI, joining other IVI state representatives from the Republic of Korea, Sweden, India, and Finland.
IVI’s European Regional Office will lead both independent and collaborative vaccine research and development projects, joining a dynamic life science community in Sweden and engaging collaborators across the public and private sectors, including the world-renowned medical university Karolinska Institutet (KI).
Since early discussions to establish IVI’s second office in Sweden, KI was considered a key future collaborator. KI generously hosted the 2-day BOT meeting on its North Campus in Solna and arranged site visits on both the North and South (Flemingsberg) Campuses, where the Board learned about the clinical and research activities underway.
At KI Campus South, Dean Prof. Maria Eriksdotter and her colleagues in the departments of Infectious Diseases and Laboratory Medicine as well as Karolinska University Hospital led presentations on their ongoing work across novel vaccine research, clinical and vaccine infrastructure development, and Vaccelerate, a pan-European platform to accelerate late-stage COVID-19 clinical trials.
KI joins a roster of world-class academic institutions that work with IVI across the full spectrum of vaccine development and access, from pre-clinical vaccine development through vaccine introduction campaigns, including Cambridge University, Harvard University, Seoul National University, and more.
Among other complementary research priorities and capabilities, IVI and KI find common ground in advancing research and development for “unincentivized vaccines”—vaccines that fail to capture the interest and investment of major vaccine developers but would make a significant difference to low-income countries that struggle with endemic and epidemic infectious diseases.
At KI Campus North, Prof. Birgitta Henriques Normark, President of the Royal Academy of Sciences, and her colleagues specializing in clinical microbiology, immunology, infectious diseases, vaccine platforms, and global health gave insight into their research. The team identified multiple areas of mutual interest between IVI and KI’s R&D units, including vaccines for bacterial infections—such as invasive pneumococcal disease—and vaccine solutions for growing antimicrobial resistance (AMR).
Prof. Staffan Normark, former permanent Secretary of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, led a tour of the Nobel Forum and a presentation on the history of the Nobel prizes, of which the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine is awarded yearly at KI.
As a key product development partner in the global health ecosystem, IVI’s network of industry partners is vital. The development and availability of a low-cost oral cholera vaccine (OCV), IVI’s first vaccine, was a public-private partnership made possible through the financial support of IVI’s state funders including Sweden, IVI’s technology transfer to manufacturers such as Shantha Biotechnics in India and EuBiologics in the Republic of Korea, and the WHO’s recommendation for use in endemic areas.
While in Sweden, the BOT also visited one of the manufacturing sites of Valneva, a biotech company developing and commercializing vaccines for infectious diseases with significant unmet medical need. The IVI team toured the facilities manufacturing Dukoral®, an oral cholera vaccine for travelers, and learned more about Valneva’s R&D programs. In addition to cholera, IVI and Valneva share priority disease areas in COVID-19 and chikungunya, a WHO-designated Neglected Tropical Disease.
Like the bid to select the location of its headquarters, IVI launched a search for its next host country. In consideration of the government’s proposal and IVI’s extensive history of partnership with Sweden, the Nordic country emerged as a logical choice. Sweden is a founding signatory to IVI’s Establishment Agreement and has contributed core and project funding through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) since 2002.
Project funding from Sida has supported a modeling and economic study of cholera, an economic study of the implications of AMR on typhoid fever, most recently, an IVI effort to support national responses to COVID-19 in Burkina Faso and Madagascar, and more.
IVI and the government of Sweden share a commitment to vaccine equity and sustainability, advancing vaccines for poverty-associated infectious diseases and making life-saving vaccines more readily available where they’re needed most. IVI’s second office based in Stockholm will be a regional research and innovation hub and catalyst for global health.
Last updated June 27, 2022