GENEVA, Switzerland--The International Vaccine Institute and its host country, the Republic of Korea, today call on countries and organizations to join in their efforts to fight infectious diseases that are still claiming millions of lives yearly.
The IVI is a non-profit international organization in Seoul established in 1997, which is devoted exclusively to the research and development of new and improved vaccines to prevent vaccine-preventable diseases in developing countries. At present, 33 countries and the World Health Organization are signatories to the Establishment Agreement of the fledgling institution.
"Overall the Institute is now at a critical juncture in its history, facing multiple challenges and opportunities for its long-term development," said Dr. John D. Clemens, director of the IVI, during an informational meeting of IVI signatories held at the WHO headquarters. "Although the Institute has succeeded in mobilizing considerable contribution, its sources of revenue need to be diversified, and additional participation and contributions from governments are essential."
The IVI has just moved into its state-of-the-art headquarters building valued at US$140 million, generously donated by the Government of Korea. It will be in full operation within a few years when the pilot plant, backed up by its high-tech labs, becomes ready to produce innovative vaccines for testing.
Korea has been the biggest supporter of the IVI, providing a large portion of the Institute´s operation budget, as well as the headquarters building. Also, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded US$40 million to the IVI and pledged additional US$55 million in research grants. Many other donors, including Sweden, Australia, Japan, the UNDP, and the Rockefeller Foundation, have made financial contributions.
For the past six years, the IVI has made brisk growth, with its annual budget jumping from US$1.5 million to US$13 million in 2003. The Institute has conducted research on various infectious diseases, including cholera, typhoid fever, shigella, Japanese encephalitis, and rotavirus in 11 countries in Asia and elsewhere. It also has provided technical assistance and training programs in vaccine production and regulations for developing country experts.
"With the opening of the new building, the IVI will push for ambitious new programs, including the development of conjugate vaccine against enteric diseases, and improved vaccines against dengue fever and Japanese encephalitis," Dr. Clemens said. "In this regard, active participation by and close cooperation with governments are crucial to the IVI´s growing activities around the world, especially in developing countries."