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Dr Melanie Saville

Director of Vaccine R&D, CEPI

The effects of COVID-19 will be felt for generations, but the virus could be the wake-up call we need to respond quickly and effectively to the next big threats.

Launched in 2017, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) has overseen breakthroughs in vaccine development including advancing the first ever Nipah and Lassa virus vaccines into clinical trials.

Most recently, the coalition has worked with its partners to rapidly respond to COVID-19.

“When we launched, we focused on some known threats without vaccines, but also on rapid response platforms to the novel ‘Disease X,’” explains Dr Melanie Saville, Director of Vaccine R&D at CEPI.

“That meant when COVID-19 hit, we were able to hit the ground running and build one of the world’s largest and most diverse vaccine portfolios.”

Through its work as co-leader of COVAX, a global initiative aiming for equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, CEPI is committed to delivering 2 billion vaccine doses to participating countries worldwide in 2021.

“As an organisation, it is part of our DNA to ensure vaccine access for the world’s most vulnerable populations,” Dr Saville explains. “No one is safe until everyone is safe.”

Prepare, transform, connect

The organisation is now seeking $3.5 billion funding for its five-year plan to continue its work to tackle the COVID-19 crisis and reduce the risks posed by future pandemics.

The plan’s three pillars will see CEPI focus firstly on preparation, which will include the development of a universal coronavirus vaccine in case a similar pandemic should strike again.

One organisation cannot do everything and it’s important we continue to connect with partners to make a more secure world.

“This would give us a ‘one bug, one drug’ approach that would be more broadly protective and drastically reduce the threat,” Dr Saville explains.

It will prioritise transformation by reducing vaccine development timeframes by two-thirds to 100 days from the 324 days it took for the first emergency use approval of the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

“With coronaviruses just one of 25 virus families, we will also build libraries of prototype vaccines to get a head start, understand how they work, and discover the right antigens,” says Dr Saville.

Finally, CEPI will work to connect and enhance the global outbreak response architecture.

“One organisation cannot do everything and it’s important we continue to connect with partners to make a more secure world,’ Dr Saville adds.

“Often, pandemic preparedness is better in high-income countries, so building infrastructure and connections in low- and middle-income countries is also going to be critical to minimise the impact of future pandemics.”

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