Leveraging the Private Sector for Lassa Vaccine R&D

Two prominent experts on Lassa fever research, Professor Alash’le Abimiku, Executive Director of the International Research Centre of Excellence, IHVN, and Dr. Donald Grant, Chief Physician at the Lassa ward in Kenema Government Hospital, Sierra Leone, participated in a fireside chat hosted by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) at the 2023 Future of Health Conference. The topic of discussion was “Leveraging the Private Sector for Lassa Vaccine R&D: A Scientific Perspective.”

Kate Kelland, Chief Scientific Writer, CEPI who moderated the discussion said that the session aimed to initiate conversations on how the private sector may become more involved in the development of medical countermeasures for Lassa fever. In addition to how the public and private sector are working together, there is the possibility of licensing a Lassa fever vaccine.

“Initially, we talk of Lassa Fever only in few countries… But we’ve seen a spread into new countries like Mali, Togo, Ghana, and Cote d’Ivoire. This is alarming and indicates that we really need to do more” Dr Grant revealed.

According to Professor Abimiku, in addition to the increased spread, Lassa fever has also, in recent years experienced higher trends and with its ability to mimic other febrile illnesses, diagnosis and treatment is challenging.

Both Professor Abimiku and Dr. Grant stressed the importance of private sector engagement, especially considering the technical capabilities they bring to the table.

Dr Grant highlighted that “the private sector has a critical role to play because the government alone cannot do it all. Private sector support is crucial for scaling up testing and diagnostics for Lassa fever, especially in hard-to-reach areas. We also need to consider vaccine production, making vaccines accessible and affordable.”

From the conversations, the panelists proposed the following recommendations: Diagnostic Expertise, Vaccine Manufacturing, Market Development, Collaborative Approach, Logistical Support and Research

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