Director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases talks about the relationship between the National Institute of Health and GAVI

Dr Anthony Fauci, Director NIAID

Washington, DC, 22 May 2012 - Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, long-time director of the United States National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, oversees an extensive research portfolio of basic and applied research to prevent, diagnose, and treat infectious diseases. Following two meetings with GAVI CEO Dr. Seth Berkley earlier this week, Fauci answers questions for the GAVI website about the relationship between GAVI and NIH. 

The two organisations – GAVI and NIH – have different mandates. How can you work together?

As I was telling Seth, if you look at the spectrum, you, GAVI, develop a vaccine and get it into the arms of people who need them. We, NIH, work on the upstream component of the fundamental research development.

NIH is way up in the upstream, and GAVI is way down in the downstream. One would think there is a big space between the two.

But as we were talking, there are areas of synergy and outright collaboration between us in setting the standard of what is needed and what kinds of research questions are important to answer.

Can you give some examples?

Well, let’s prioritise what is important to GAVI. One thing is point of care diagnosis for malaria, TB, influenza, other infectious diseases, and that is a very important part of our research portfolio as well. … It’s important for us to at least theoretically and practically to be partners with GAVI.

We don’t want to be putting resources particularly in the developing world if the research isn’t going to be implemented, particularly with cold chain concerns.

Have you forged these types of collaborations with organisations that delivered vaccines before, or is this new?

It was present in a more informal manner a few decades ago with the Children’s Vaccine Initiative. But GAVI is much more of visible, coordinated force now, with a lot of resources, working in many, many countries. It’s an organisation you can deal directly with.

In addition to point of care diagnostics research, what else could be on your research agenda that would benefit GAVI?

One other area involves multi-dose vials, which need preservatives. What is used now is thiomersal, which is frowned upon because of concerns of mercury. (Thiomersal is a mercury-containing compound used to prevent bacterial and fungal growth in some vaccines during storage.)

So Seth and I were talking about finding a preservative for these multi-dose vials without thiomersal so we no longer would have the baggage associated with it.

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