Select Committee on Science and Technology Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses(Questions 40-42)




  40. We are basically out of time. I am wondering if with questions 9 and 10 on vaccines I could request that you provide us with some supplementary information, unless there is something you can say rather briefly about them at this time. I know it is a big area. Maybe it is better to ask you to prepare a supplement that will comment on it, unless you have some quick words about it, Dr Salisbury.
  (Dr Salisbury) We already have a vaccine evaluation consortium that brings together the Public Health Laboratory Service, the Centre for Applied Microbiology Research, the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control and the Institute of Child Health from the University of London. These four agencies have been working together on vaccine development and research since around 1992. We do not see this changing significantly with the development of the Agency, we would simply imagine that this consortium will continue to work in the very effective way that it has done so far. It has a number of short-term goals in the way that we evaluate near-term vaccines and we have medium range goals, where we are able to see where there are new products that might be drawn through if we can get the necessary collaborations. I do not see that that will change dramatically because it is already working extremely effectively.

  41. Where are these new products coming from, from an academic base or an industrial base?
  (Dr Salisbury) They clearly start in the science community. The early development work is done in academic units or in small bio-tech companies, for example. That area, the left-hand end of the development spectrum is probably nearer the responsibilities of the Medical Research Council, for example. It is quite distant from our interests which are much more to do with near-term. Once products get to the middle of the development then, by and large, the big pharmaceutical companies are starting to get interested because they are seeing viable products. At that stage we believe there is an opportunity to influence what products we will get in the future by being able to say "these are the things we want, these are the ways in which we want these vaccines developed and we will work with you in co-funding and co-managed programmes". The work often starts at the bio-tech end and once it gets into the middle ground then we can have influence and interest.

  42. Do you commission work yourself?
  (Dr Salisbury) Yes, we do. We have a programme funding vaccine research. The consortium of those agencies I mentioned is largely funded by us. We identify the strategic direction for the consortium, the PHLS takes the lead role in managing the consortium. One of the best examples of its value was the meningitis C vaccine where back in 1994 we could see that there was going to be a need but the vaccine did not exist. We were able to work with the major companies to get a development programme whereby the industry would do the development of the product, and the consortium would do the research necessary to show that this would be a safe and effective vaccine that could be integrated into our routine programme. It worked extremely effectively. We went from nothing to a national campaign in five years; one usually expects 10 years as the usual development time for a new vaccine. We have proof that this process does work. I hope it is a model we can continue to use in the future as a contributor to the work of the Agency.

Chairman: Thank you very much for that clarification, I think that does in fact cover the issues in questions 9 and 10. Thank you very much indeed for answering rather lengthy and complex questions, we have enjoyed it very much indeed.

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