In the aftermath of the World Vaccine Congress in Europe 2022 we are delighted to present the second in our series of live on-site interviews. We were lucky to catch Dr Jerome Kim of the International Vaccine Institute (IVI) for a quick chat on the morning of Day 2. Dr Kim is another big name in the vaccine community, and his reputation was confirmed by shrewd and sensitive responses to our questions. It is a pleasure to share these with the community.
Meeting Dr Kim
Just like Dr Sadoff, Dr Kim is a man who needs very little introduction. However, he patiently detailed the work of the IVI, of which he is the Director-General. Founded in 1997, it is “devoted” to the “discovery, development, and delivery” of “safe, effective, and affordable vaccines”. Dr Kim believes it also functions as a “little biotech company”, with two of its own approved vaccines. IVI takes an end-to-end approach, starting with development, securing funding, and generating relevant data.
In particular, IVI is interested in vaccines against cholera, typhoid, and other poverty-associated infectious diseases. Most recently, during the COVID-19 pandemic, IVI worked with “over 2 dozen companies” to support everything from pre-clinical studies to global clinical trials. Although it didn’t produce its own vaccine, it supported “whatever company needed help”.
As many of us are interested in understanding what effect COVID-19 had on international vaccine programmes, we asked the eternal “what lessons” question. Specifically, we wanted to know what it has taught us about development and distribution of vaccines. Interestingly, Dr Kim reflected that all but 2 projects IVI was working on continued at full speed during the pandemic. This, he believes, is a “tribute” to the fact that it is a “development organisation” that collaborates so closely with other institutions. IVI’s mission, he emphasised, is the “development of vaccines, technology transfer, capacity building”.
What have we taken from the pandemic, then? For Dr Kim, the “value of vaccines” was re-emphasised. Further emphasis was placed on the “value of innovation, the importance of funding”, and the “importance of coordination” between vaccine developers and implementers. It is not enough to simply have a vaccine, without allowing the vaccine to have the “impact that we wanted it to have”. Finally, with global implementation, Dr Kim insists that we have more work to do, particularly in lower-income countries.
A more effective future
As an expert in the whole journey of vaccines, from idea to inoculation, Dr Kim understands a thing or two about collaboration with policy makers and leaders. Therefore, we asked him about what work needs to be done. His answer focused on the “importance of innovation” and the fact that COVID-19 did have the positive effect of showing us just how quickly we can work.
However, “access and equity” failures get in the way of vaccines having their desired effects. He explores the example of rotavirus – for which a vaccine has been developed and approved. “60% of the world’s children” have not benefitted from this vaccine. He hopes that companies will “think earlier” about how they can use their technologies to improve roll out across the globe.
“Like everything in vaccines, we have to plan for them before we need them.”
What does the Congress offer?
Our interview concluded with our question about the benefits of gathering industry experts under one roof. Dr Kim suggests that at the moment it is a “great time for vaccines”. Thus, the Congress presents an opportunity to capitalise on a “success story” whilst identifying things that “we could do better”. His focus remains on the future, for the coming COVID-19 variants, but also other vaccines.
It was an honour to speak to Dr Kim, and we are grateful that he made time for us during a very busy few days!
If you are interested in joining us for the World Vaccine Congress in Washington, 2023, then get your tickets now.