This is a guest post, authored by Rachel Rath, Director of the BARDA Alliance at Johnson and Johnson Innovation, who leads BLUE KNIGHT™.

Last month, I had the pleasure of attending the World Vaccine Congress—an experience that left me feeling inspired, energized, and excited about the future of vaccine development.  BLUE KNIGHT™ is proud to be part of the global community dedicated to combating potential health threats and emerging pathogens by supporting innovators committed to advancing vaccine research, development, and deployment. It was exciting to see some of our current and alumni resident companies from across the globe connect at the Congress to demonstrate the critical role they play in building a safer, healthier future for all—from the early stages of vaccine development to the enabling solutions that may help vaccines reach vulnerable and higher risk populations, such as elderly and immune-compromised.

While there was excitement throughout the Congress for the potential of next-generation vaccines, the importance of innovation in catalyzing the type of systematic changes that can create enabling environments for vaccine development and delivery was clear. The future relies on transformative ideas, not just for the sake of innovation, but to be better prepared for emerging pathogens—this includes potential solutions as well as the technologies that enable increased vaccine efficiency and uptake. Revolutionizing the way vaccines are manufactured, stored, transported, and delivered is critical to ensuring equitable, accessible, and effective solutions.

To have a potentially meaningful impact on health security, we need robust and diverse solutions that reach beyond identifying new vaccines to address issues of durability, stability, and seasonality with broad applications across pathogens. The potential to couple pharmaceutical advances with technology may be key to reducing burden, improving accessibility, and increasing adherence. Several Blue Knight companies that participated in the Congress are tackling these types of challenges, building on lessons learned from past pandemics, including SARS and Ebola, and leveraging platform approaches and medtech to tackle some of the toughest challenges – things that we previously would have thought were unimaginable.

For example, Uvax Bio, a spinout from Scripps Research, is using a platform technology to develop vaccines for infectious diseases. HDT Bio is working to transform vaccine manufacturing through a platform technology to simplify manufacturing processes and facilitate multivalency for rapid scale-up to address a range of potential health threats. To get potential solutions into the hands of the people who need them most, Jurata Thin Film is developing new ways to store and deliver vaccines while 7Hills Pharma, is developing a first-in-class oral adjuvant that aims to enhance antigen-specific immune responses for more efficient vaccine delivery. It’s these types of enabling technologies that bolster new vaccine development and contribute to equitable access.

From increasing durability to breaking seasonality, early-stage companies are thinking about the challenges of the past in nimble and new ways to tackle the threats of tomorrow. That’s why Blue Knight, a collaboration between Johnson & Johnson Innovation – JLABS (JLABS) and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, continues to think through how we can better support companies earlier in the development pipeline. There are exciting new solutions, many with potential to have a significant impact on individual and public health, and finding the right partners and resources can be critical to meeting key inflection points.

Understanding the different options for support, and knowing when and how to engage, can be the difference between a great idea and an actual solution. In a recent conversation with Irnela Bajrovic, Chief Scientific Officer at Jurata Thin Film, she recommended that early-stage companies “say yes to every opportunity because it could end up being the one that changes everything for you.” Similarly, I encourage companies to get ready for those opportunities by initiating conversations with potential partners and collaborators as early as possible, while keeping an open mind.

Being prepared to capitalize on those opportunities is important, and it’s never too early to start building relationships for the future. Blue Knight is thrilled to be hosting the 2023 BLUE KNIGHT™ Symposium in association with the 2023 BIO International Conference, a forum designed to spark connections and accelerate next-generation innovation towards preparedness and emerging pathogens. We have also recently launched the BLUE KNIGHT™ QuickPitch, an opportunity for innovators to submit potentially ground-breaking ideas of technologies that aim to enhance preparedness toward future known and unknown health threats.

We want to hear from you—how are you thinking differently about preparedness of the future? What are new, novel ways to address the potential unknown threats of the future from viral and bacterial threats?

Ultimately, no one community is safe unless all communities are safe, and having forums like the World Vaccine Congress are vital to learning, connecting, and contributing to the global effort to improve vaccine development and delivery. We look forward to seeing what comes next and how the collective power of the global community can unlock the potential solutions of tomorrow.

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Thank you to Rachel Rath for this insightful piece. For more like this, subscribe to the VaccineNation newsletter here.