Search the GHTC website

In this regular feature on Breakthroughs, we highlight some of the most interesting reads in global health research from the past week.

October 30, 2023 by Hannah Sachs-Wetstone

Interested in more global health innovation news? Every week GHTC scours media reports worldwide to deliver essential global health R&D news and content to your inbox. Sign up now to receive our weekly R&D News Roundup email. 

Pfizer and BioNTech last week reported promising early-phase data on an mRNA combination vaccine against COVID-19 and influenza and announced plans to start a phase 3 trial of the vaccine, following Moderna’s similar announcement for its combination vaccine earlier this month. Moderna’s trial began last week, with Pfizer and BioNTech’s likely to start in the coming months as well. A combination vaccine for COVID-19 and influenza has the potential to greatly reduce the burden of these respiratory viruses on patients, providers, and health care systems, underscoring why these companies and the broader research community have placed a greater focus on combination vaccines coming out of the pandemic.

At the annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) last week, the World Health Organization reported the results of a major evaluation of a pilot rollout in three African countries of RTS,S, the first approved malaria vaccine, showing positive findings about the lives it has already saved. RTS,S cut deaths among young children by 13 percent over nearly four years and cut cases of severe malaria by 22 percent among kids young enough to have received a three-shot regimen. The RTS,S vaccine is notably not a perfect tool, given the limited durability of its protection and lower efficacy, but health experts say this data makes a strong case for broader rollout of RTS,S and the potential of integrating the second approved malaria vaccine, R21, into multipronged efforts to fight malaria.

A research team at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has shown for the first time that human volunteers can be safely and effectively infected with Zika virus, which could benefit research efforts to gain a greater understanding of the disease and to develop vaccines and treatments to use against it, as none currently exist. This controlled human infection model is useful for research because during the 2015-2016 outbreak, researchers were unable to test experimental products in time before the epidemic subsided, and since, there have not been any large outbreaks. The new model is controversial but has been ruled by US regulators and the World Health Organization as safe and scientifically important.

About the author

Hannah Sachs-WetstoneGHTC

Hannah supports advocacy and communications activities and member coordination for GHTC. Her role includes developing and disseminating digital communications, tracking member and policy news, engaging coalition members, and organizing meetings and events.Prior to joining GHTC, more about this author