Ringing in the New Year (and in My Head)

The end of a calendar year is a favorite time for the media content providers to look back and churn out stories on movies of the year, events of the year, games of the year, famous people of the year, etc. of the year, and not to be left behind, here is my humble contribution to backward looking at my posts of 2011.  Most of my ramblings (50 or so) were in one of four categories:  technology, product development, commercialization/markets, or policy.  While I wrote about new technology (drugs, vaccines, diagnostics) about one-third of the time, my second favorite hobby horse was getting technology commercialized, that is, into use where it can do some good.  I usually kvetched either about the inability of those in the NGO/academic/grant-driven world to recognize the need (a requirement for success) to understand the market/use/performance/utility of their product or service (resulting in a lot of effort down the drain) or the inability (lack of imagination) of the for-profit world to recognize the potential of rest-of-the-world markets (a missed business opportunity).  Some of the posts I enjoyed writing on commercialization and markets were:

  • “This Little Piggy” (5/12/11) about an emerging consensus among a number of governments in Asian countries on using insurance and no/low/for-profit contractors to provide health care;
  • “Missing the Boat” (8/18/11) about successful biotech exec and investor, Christoph Westphal, lamenting the tough times for entrepreneurs but missing the ROW opportunity;
  • “Generics Play” (9/15/11) about whether the multinational pharmas will see the value of the global market for “affordable” drugs; and
  • “Beyond the Band-Aid” (10/13/11) about involving small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in global health.

Which of these were popular with my readers is hard to say since I rarely get any comments ; according to Word Press, my blog has about 60 “viewers” per week whom I assume are also readers but apparently not commenters.  But as an exercise in self-education, blogging has been fun.

I’d be remiss though (and not have enough to write about this week) if I did not point out that in my last post of 2010, I made some predictions for 2011.  Not about who would win the World Series or if the world would end (that’s 2012) but about vaccines and global health.  Here were my guesses on big vaccine stories in 2011 and what actually happened:

“Novavax and Avimex Laboratories, their local partner in Mexico, announce positive clinical results from a Phase IIB pivotal study of a H1N1 pandemic influenza vaccine thus clearing the way for Mexican registration of the first Virus-Like Particle (VLP) vaccine, potentially a fast and cheap route to vaccines;” not so, Novavax reported the publication of the Phase II results but not the ongoing Phase IIB (Novovax press release).

“Archivel Farma S.L. of Badalona, Spain announces successful Phase II results for its therapeutic TB vaccine in individuals with or without concomitant HIV infection in South Africa;” did not happen, in fact Archivel issued no press releases in 2011, not a good sign (Archivel).

“The Global Polio Eradication Initiative announces that it is on track for success in 2012 after 22 years of effort;” no such announcement, but the trend is in the right direction with about 30% fewer than the 874 deaths last year (GEPI).

“After more than seven years and several major ‘awards’, Medicine in Need, a non-profit research organization spun out from Harvard University and funded by at least $11 million of Gates Foundation money, announces it will start a human trial of its nanoparticle TB vaccine …;” nada, apparently MEND has done nothing in more than a year except work on its burn rate (MEND News).

“Somewhat speculatively, after the 2010 success of its Advanced Market Commitment call for a pneumonia vaccine (Vaccine AMC), the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (GAVI) announces an AMC for a ‘pediatric super-vax’ to cover diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), all known subtypes of hepatitis B virus, and poliomyelitis caused by poliovirus Types 1, 2, and 3;” nope, but then the pneumo vaccine AMC has been a roaring success with Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline recently increasing their commitment of low-cost product by 50% through 2023 (AlertNet) and GAVI had a good year for raising funds (GAVI press release).

“Even more speculatively, the US government decides to donate the excise tax it collects on vaccines each year ($0.75 to 3.75 per dose, maybe about $50 million?) to GAVI for its new AMC and inspired by this largess, the American Pediatric Society, US branch of UNICEF, and concerned persons start a campaign to ask parents to donate a dollar when getting their kid vaccinated, raising another $10 million;” wrong again, but I still think it’s a great idea.

Needless to say, I’m making no predictions for 2012.  Wishing you a happy and healthy next year.


One thought on “Ringing in the New Year (and in My Head)

  1. Chris,
    It seems every writer wants a critic. Well that’s my interpretation of your lament that your readers are not commenters. I want you to know that I read every line of every blog and enjoy them very much. I don’t have much to comment on beyond my nodding head. You do hear my head nodding along as I read?

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