KU scientists get $17.6M grant to make cheaper vaccines for developing countries

New research on vaccine delivery could save millions of children around the world.
New research on vaccine delivery could save millions of children around the world. PATH

The University of Kansas and two other schools have received a $17.6 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop and produce a low-cost vaccine manufacturing platform to be used in developing countries.

KU is working on the project with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and University College London to potentially save millions of lives globally.

According to the World Health Organization, nearly one in five children worldwide doesn’t get routine vaccinations for preventable diseases.

But researchers say the solution is not just producing more vaccines, but also making vaccines more affordable and available.

“A key part of this effort is to ensure that vaccines remain stable during manufacturing, storage, transport and administration to people in the developing world,” said KU School of Pharmacy distinguished professor David Volkin, lead investigator for the research at KU.

The KU, MIT and UCL researchers on the project are collaborating to standardize the development of new recombinant protein vaccines and produce them for less than 15 cents a dose. Vaccine supplies for phase one human clinical trials could be produced by the end of the five-year grant.

“It’s an honor to be a part of this team of world-class academic researchers and to take on this grand challenge,” Volkin said in a KU statement released Tuesday. “Affordable and stable vaccines are a crucial element of disease prevention around the world. Delivered effectively, they save lives and can improve the health of entire populations.”

World health experts say vaccines save the lives of up to 3 million people a year and that 1.5 million more deaths could be prevented with improvements in global vaccination coverage.

Mará Rose Williams: 816-234-4419, @marawilliamskc