Fast-Tracking Our Response to Pandemics

Apr 26, 2017 10:00 AM ET

Fast-tracking our response to pandemics

In the wake of global pandemics such as Ebola and Zika, there is consensus that the world needs to be better prepared.

Finding better ways to prepare

The threat of a new epidemic is not hypothetical. Beyond recent outbreaks, epidemics, and pandemics, the World Health Organization (WHO) lists 70 diseases with outbreak potential. With increased air travel for business and tourism and populations on the move, it doesn’t take long for a virus to spread between countries and jump across continents, with potentially catastrophic results.

Vaccines can be an effective way of preventing infectious diseases, but they take many years to develop, and anticipating which disease to target is challenging. Waiting for the next epidemic to start means a vaccine will inevitably arrive too late. 

Around the world

Our vaccines business is one of the largest in the world, producing pediatric, adolescent, adult, and travel vaccines. As a leader in the industry, we work with governments, multinational organizations and NGOs to enhance preparedness against potential future outbreaks.

In 2016, we pledged our support for the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), which brings together governments, funders, and pharmaceutical companies under the banner of outsmarting epidemics. CEPI is galvanizing efforts to get new vaccines developed, approved and manufactured against potential threats before they happen. GSK is represented on the board of directors.

We continue to work with partners to complete the development for our Ebola candidate vaccine, and with the US National Institutes of Health to advance a potential vaccine candidate for Zika using cutting-edge mRNA technology. 

In the US

In 2016, we opened a new global vaccines R&D center in Rockville, MD, called the Slaoui Center for Vaccines Research. This state-of-the-art facility can host up to 450 scientists and support staff, enabling the  development of innovative vaccines to meet public health needs in the US and worldwide. The facility will house a total of 12 critical vaccine development programs, including maternal immunization and platform technologies.

Rockville will be home to our proposed biopreparedness organization (BPO) – a dedicated, permanent organization using a "no profit/no loss" model that will design and develop new vaccines against emerging viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens that potentially pose a threat to global public health. Our proposal was featured in the WHO Research and Development Blueprint in 2016 and ‘considered the most promising platform among those presented.

US Perspective

Rip Ballou, who heads our Slaoui Center for Vaccines Research in Rockville, MD, is a medical doctor trained in Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases. He began his work on vaccines at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. While there, he led the team, with GSK, to co-develop the world’s most advanced malaria vaccine.  

“In the wake of Ebola and Zika, there is consensus that the world needs to be better prepared for pandemics. Our new facility in Rockville is home to our proposed biopreparedness organization (BPO). We want the BPO to make an important contribution to improving global health preparedness.” (Rip, VP and Head, Slaoui Center for Vaccines Research)

More information

This article is part of a series on our responsible business in the US

We are tackling some of the biggest global health challenges by promoting open innovation to meet unmet medical needs, making our medicines and vaccines more accessible, and strengthening healthcare systems. Learn more about our global commitments and progress for Health for all