Preparing for the Next Zika (‘Nature Biotechnology’)

New funding is not enough to guarantee success against emerging infectious diseases around the world. Rather, good governance, a long-term technology investment strategy and strong product management skills are essential, write a Dartmouth College researcher and her co-author in an opinion piece in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

Kendall Hoyt, an assistant professor at the Geisel School of Medicine and a co-author propose a new way to develop countermeasures for Ebola, Zika and other emerging infectious diseases. As momentum builds for an international effort to develop drugs and vaccines for emerging infectious diseases, the duo examined U.S. biodefense programs to understand approaches that might work and developed a global strategy for countermeasure development.

“As infectious outbreaks such as SARS, MERS, Ebola and Zika become the new norm, there is growing recognition that governments and philanthropic organizations need to pool funds to develop countermeasures for these diseases,” Hoyt says. “Money is not enough, however. Without strong governance, a clear technology strategy and good product management, precious public funds will be wasted and we will continue to battle public health emergencies of international concern without the aid of medical countermeasures.”

“The problem is that vaccines can take over a decade to develop,” the pair write in the piece. “The development of new biomedical countermeasures — vaccines, therapies and diagnostic — requires the coordination of a wide number of institutional and industry actors to succeed. We argue that international efforts to develop countermeasures for emerging infectious diseases should build on lessons learned from U.S. programs to develop closely related biodefense products.”

Read the full opinion piece, published 4/7/16 by Nature Biotechnology.