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Tag Archives: epidemiology
A paper that came out yesterday in the American Journal of Psychiatry has generated a lot of press coverage of the “autism epidemic,” as it purportedly shows that one in every 38 South Korean children is autistic. That’s more than … Continue reading
Last week, I blogged briefly about a report of an unusual cluster of Zika virus infections. Like a lot of scientists, I got a good chuckle out of Martin Enserink’s reporting on the story for Science, and figured that if … Continue reading
I did a little bit of amateur epidemiology last week, and now a professional has found some evidence supporting my theory. My wife had a persistent cough for weeks, which she’d attributed to seasonal allergies. Then her car needed to … Continue reading
Xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus (XMRV), previously best known for showing how an awkward name can turn into an awesome abbreviation, has now become the hot new pathogen for virologists to hunt. As mentioned in numerous media outlets, some researchers … Continue reading
An old epidemiological rule of thumb says that for any given contagious disease, 20% of the population will be responsible for 80% of the disease spread. The numbers are certainly not exact, it’s just a way of stating a commonly … Continue reading
Through my new gig on the podcast This Week in Virology, I found out about an amazingly slick new mapping application. Pop over to Healthmap, and you can see a global overview of disease outbreaks and epidemics. The map draws … Continue reading
In the summer of 2007, the incidence of West Nile virus cases in Bakersfield, CA shot up 276%. Simultaneously, the rate of home foreclosures in the area went up 300%. The two numbers are very similar, but obviously that’s just … Continue reading
The G7 nations are apparently setting up another effort to entice drug companies to work on unprofitable diseases:
The UK and other leading industrialised nations are setting up a £750m ($1.5bn) fund to speed up the development of new vaccines for use in poorer countries.
The plan is to subsidise the future purchase of vaccines in the hope this will galvanise drug firms into action.
A vaccine for pneumococcal disease is the first target.
A jab already exists, but developing countries need a tailored version which firms have been slow to invest in as there is no guaranteed market.
This is an example of a “pull” incentive, guaranteeing a market for the putative vaccine by committing rich countries to buy a certain amount once it’s developed. This contrasts with “push” efforts, which fund the research up front. The idea of “pull” systems is that drug companies will invest their own money in development if they perceive that there’s going to be a market for the final product. By guaranteeing an artificial market in the future, we can reap the benefits of corporate research without having to put taxpayers’ cash on the table until the products are ready.
It’s a neat idea, and drug company executives publicly laud it. Privately, however, they consistently admit that their own company probably won’t do it. Developing a new vaccine can take a decade or more, and there’s a tremendous risk that politicians yet to be elected will balk at honoring the expensive promises of their predecessors. Also, the governments involved have to be willing to pay the companies a suitable profit margin beyond their basic development costs, which would inevitably become a political lightning rod.
On the other hand, as the ongoing problems with “push” efforts like the Bioshield project show, there’s clearly a need for some alternative. It’s just not clear that pulling will be any more successful. Continue reading