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Partnering for a Cure through Development & Distribution

Strategic Dialogue

Programming Partner: Concordia Action Alliance



  • Moderator Porter Delaney outlined the four-part structure of this Strategic Dialogue:
    • New initiatives
      • Arpa Garay provided an update on Merck’s pursuit of a single-dose vaccine using proven recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus (rVSV) technology, along with other therapeutic agents. She reported on two investigational vaccines, separately in development with Themis and IAVI, and one antiviral therapeutic agent in collaboration with Ridgeback Bio. She shared that Merck has also partnered with governments and NGOs to support access to, and administration of, these vaccines and therapeutic agents.

“Public-private partnerships—in terms of delivery and access to these therapeutics and vaccines—are going to be more important in this pandemic than ever in recent history,” Arpa Garay 

      • Mark Feinberg elaborated on Arpa’s mention of the IAVI-Merck collaboration. The collaboration was formed to meet global demand, widen the research network, and expedite the development of a rVSV-based vaccine that would promptly induce immunity when administered. Throughout the pandemic, Feinberg has observed increase partnership across the public and private sectors for research and development, as well as the splintering of international collaboration due to nationalistic competition for a vaccine alongside pandemic-related constraints on offshore manufacturing.
      • Gargee Ghosh attested to the pandemic-aggravated hunger and poverty that the Gates Foundation has committed their resources and attention to in recent months through digital cash transfers to the impoverished. Ghosh spoke extensively of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a global collaboration to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to new COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines.
      • Nikolaj Gilbert, who was recently appointed to lead his 1,500-person public health NGO PATH, spoke to PATH’s partnerships with public institutions, businesses, grassroots groups, and investors in all aspects of vaccine development (scientific, academic, financial, supply, and delivery), as well as its work to advise governmental organizations on national pandemic response plans.
      • Michael Nyenhuis covered some of UNICEF’s latest pandemic-related partnerships. In South Sudan, the challenges of remote education have rendered a partnership between the Ministry of Education and the local radio stations for schooling, as radio is the country’s most common form of media. UNICEF has also joined forces with Microsoft to begin the Learning Passport, a program that connects refugee children to the curriculum of their home country. UNICEF has also set up impact investing funds to back the procurement of PPE in developing countries.
    • Current landscape of research and development for a COVID-19 vaccine
      • Jake Reder explained the work of Celdara Medical as it secures lasting partnerships with premier research institutions in the U.S. and European Union, and provides them with developmental, financial, and business acumen to transition them from the discovery of a vaccine to its clinical impact. This summer, Celdara has launched the Pandemic Security Initiative in preparation for future infectious disease pandemics. The Initiative has created a development pipeline for COVID-19 tests, vaccines, and medicines, as well as for other viral, fungal, and bacterial threats, in order to protect the nation’s health and economy from future infectious disease outbreaks.

“We’re starting to see a change in political will about how we as a global society think about preparedness and security, so that’s what I think the silver lining is in all of this,” Jake Reder

    • Global barriers to distribution
      • Ben Hubbard discussed supply chain data platform Parsyl’s approach to vaccine distribution. Parsyl specializes in low-cost sensors to monitor sensitive shipping and storage items, such as temperature-sensitive pharmaceuticals, and uses the data collected by these sensors to enhance their cargo insurance products. Parsyl has recently partnered with Gavi, a global vaccine alliance that aims to equalize access to vaccines for children in developing countries, in order to monitor and protect their vaccine supply chains and to mitigate liabilities in transporting vaccines to high-risk, low-income countries. Still, last mile delivery for delicate vaccines remains fraught with difficulty and expense, justifying innovative partnerships like Parsyl’s collaboration with Lloyds to provide vaccine insurance backing.
    • Policy environment
      • Dakota Gruener expressed concerns about how individuals will verify that they have received the COVID-19 vaccine in a privacy-protected digital environment. She believes that without this verification and the possibility of falsified vaccination results, the social and economic benefits of the vaccine will not be fully realized. She advocated for a re-conceptualization of the immunization records and COVID-19 test results to be accessible across institutional and geographic borders without dangerous incursions on privacy.

Key takeaways & next steps:

    • Vaccinations must be delivered to the most vulnerable populations first—rather than those populations that can readily afford and access the vaccine—in order to promote more stable and widespread pandemic recovery around the world. 
    • Policies should be established regarding digital health credential accessibility to secure a safe return to workplaces, public venues, and global travel. 
    • Plans should be in place to mitigate potential risks arising from the distribution of a vaccine, such as theft and damage. The Global Health Risk Facility, coming to market in November, is designed by Lloyds, Parsyl, and others to insure the storage and transportation of COVID-19 vaccines.


Session Speakers