|- Thai Health Secretary to deliver congratulatory speech to highlight collaboration IVI
- Chulabhorn Research Institute symposium to address climate change, infectious diseases
SEOUL, BANGKOK- The International Vaccine Institute (IVI) will hold its 12th annual meeting of the Board of Trustees (BOT) in Bangkok, Thailand on April 2-5 to review achievements and activities for the past year and to develop plans for the next year. The IVI, based in Seoul, Korea, is the world´s only international organization devoted exclusively to the development and introduction of new and underutilized vaccines for people in developing countries.
|Members of the IVI´s Board of Trustees during the annual BOT meeting, which held at the Chulabhorn Research Institute in Bangkok, Thailand during April 2-5, 2009.
Attending the meeting are Chairman Ragnar Norrby, IVI Director-General Dr. John Clemens, other members of the Board, and a number of collaborators and donors. Notably, Dr. Prat Boonyawongvirot, Permanent Secretary at the Thai Ministry of Public Health, will deliver an opening speech, highlighting the past and current collaborations between the IVI and Thailand, including surveillance of shigellosis (bacterial dysentery) and a clinical trial of a dengue vaccine candidate.
The 22-member Board now includes Dr. Shin Young-soo, the new director of the World Health Organization’s Western Pacific Regional Office. WHO has two ex-officio seats on the IVI Board, with the other seat currently held by its Director-General, Dr. Margaret Chan. Other new members of the Board are Mr. George Bickerstaff, Managing Director of CRT Capital Group, LLC, a U.S.- based investment bank, and a member of the GAVI Alliance’s board; and Mr. Vijay Samant, CEO of Vical, Inc., a U.S.-based pharmaceutical company.
On the first day of the four-day Board meeting, the IVI and the Chulabhorn Research Institute in Bangkok will jointly hold a “Symposium on the Role of Vaccines and Translational Research in Emerging Diseases and Environmental Health”. The symposium, under the theme “Climate Change, Invasive Species and Health Risks,” will bring together some 100 public health and environment experts from the IVI and Thailand, including the Royal Princess Prof. Chulabhorn Mahidol, who will deliver congratulatory remarks. She serves as President of the Chulabhorn Research Institute, which is dedicated to research on the quality of life. The IVI Board will also visit the site of the world’s first Phase 2b clinical trial of a dengue vaccine candidate (developed by sanofi pasteur) in children in Ratchaburi Province, in a field site developed by the IVI’s Pediatric Dengue Vaccine Initiative (PDVI).
This past year also witnessed a number of important developments and achievements at the IVI. Of note, the new First Lady of Korea, Madame Kim Yoon-ok, assumed the Honorary President of the Korea Support Committee for the IVI in October, 2008, following in the footsteps of her predecessors, Madame Kwon Yang-suk and Madame Lee Hee-ho.
One of the major success stories of the IVI this past year was the transfer of technology to a high-quality producer (Shantha Biotechnics) in India of the first low-cost oral cholera vaccine geared towards populations where cholera still poses a significant public health problem, such as the slums of South Asian cities and many sub-Saharan African countries. While other oral cholera vaccines are expensive and therefore used mainly as a traveler’s vaccine in industrialized countries, this vaccine, developed by the IVI by improving a vaccine produced in Vietnam, has been designed to be affordable and easy to administer, so that it can be used broadly by public health programs and relief agencies to control endemic cholera and prevent cholera outbreaks.
The IVI is also transferring the production technology for a Vi conjugate vaccine against typhoid fever to Shantha Biotechnics, and clinical trials of the vaccine will begin this year in India. This vaccine, which will be the first typhoid vaccine targeted to infants, was developed in the IVI laboratories, in collaboration with the U.S. National Institute of Health. In addition, eight years of research and information dissemination carried out by the IVI on typhoid fever and typhoid vaccines helped form the basis for the GAVI Alliance to include typhoid vaccines in its list of priority vaccines for the Alliance’s new Vaccine Investment Strategy in 2008.
The IVI also launched a Policy and Economics Unit by recruiting Dr. Karima Saleh, a senior health economist at the Asia Development Bank, as its first Director. During the next year, the unit plans to prepare a comprehensive “investment case” proposal for new-generation oral cholera vaccines with the aim of accelerating their use to control both endemic and epidemic cholera. The unit will also seek to prepare an investment case for typhoid vaccines, including a business case/market assessment for Vi conjugate vaccines.
The IVI successfully completed the first year of its program on the prevention and control of Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) and Japanese encephalitis (JE) in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). In its second year, the project will continue to assist the country’s main medical research institution – the Academy of Medical Sciences (AMS) – in improving its capacity to conduct surveillance of and to diagnose Hib and JE, two important causes of severe neurological disease in children in many countries in the region. The project will continue to provide advanced diagnostic tests for Hib and JE at the AMS and training to AMS scientists in their use, with the aim of developing the laboratory as a national reference lab for Hib and JE and establishing a nation-wide surveillance system for these two diseases. The project is also providing training to DPRK medical and health professionals in epidemiology, disease surveillance, data management, diagnostic testing, and vaccine evaluation through a two-week course at the National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases (NICED) in Kolkata, India, as an initial step in building national capacity in these important areas of public health practice.
In the field of laboratory sciences, the IVI and the National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases (NICED) of India are establishing a Joint Immuno-Monitoring Laboratory at NICED in Kolkata. This laboratory, the IVI’s first overseas laboratory facility, will use the latest techniques to develop more advanced assays (tests) to measure mucosal immune responses in infants and young children, as well as tests to more reliably measure mucosal immunological memory.
Meanwhile, the IVI recently opened refurbished high bio-containment (BSL3+/A3+) laboratories at its headquarters in Seoul. With these facilities, the Institute is set to embark on laboratory programs on H5N1 (avian) influenza, tuberculosis, and other pathogens requiring a high level of biological containment.
The International Vaccine Institute (IVI), based in Seoul, Korea, is the world’s only international organization devoted exclusively to developing and introducing new and improved vaccines to protect the world’s poorest people, especially children in developing countries. Established as an initiative of the United Nations Development Program in 1997, the IVI operates under a treaty signed by 40 countries and the World Health Organization. The Institute conducts research in 28 countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America on vaccines against diarrheal infections, bacterial meningitis and pneumonia, as well as Japanese encephalitis and dengue fever, and develops new and improved vaccines, adjuvants and assays at its headquarters in Seoul. For more information, please visit www.ivi.int