Norway funded CEPI the key to a fast Covid-19 vaccine

One of the most important source of funding of international vaccine research is the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, or CEPI, a public-private partnership launched in 2017 by Norway and headquartered in Oslo. The idea from the beginning was to award grants for swift vaccine development targeting emerging threats that the pharmaceutical industry might otherwise ignore.

Only three months into this outbreak, CEPI is a large part of why there are already dozens of Covid-19 vaccine candidates making their way through animal and human trials as well as platforms to develop more.

The need for it became clear after the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which killed more than 11,000. Scientists had begun working on a vaccine, but no company had produced one, because the market was small and potential recipients poor. An ad hoc consortium rushed one into existence.

CEPI solves what economists call a “coordination problem.” It can help pair boutique research and development companies with big vaccine manufacturers, work with regulators to streamline approval processes, and resolve patent disputes on the spot.

The goal is to have a vaccine ready for wide deployment in 12 to 18 months, says Dr. Richard Hatchett, CEPI’s executive director. That timetable means the vaccine won’t stem the current outbreak. But it will be essential if the virus comes back—or never goes away.

The nightmare scenario, says Hatchett, is a disease that combines a fraction of the lethality of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome with the contagiousness of the common cold.

“Possibly,” he says, “that’s what we’re dealing with now.”

The office of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations in Oslo.

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