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International Vaccine Institute

Posted February. 16, 2007 07:21,   


Celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, the International Vaccine Institute (IVI), headquartered at Seoul National University, has researched and developed vaccines for contagious diseases for 20 third world countries in Africa, Asia, and South America. Since 2000, over 400,000 people have participated in IVI clinical vaccine tests.

The edible cholera vaccine underwent testing in Calcutta and is produced by Vietnamese company, BBiotech, which received the vaccine via technology transfer from Sweden. It only takes a dollar for one person to receive two vaccinations. IVI is also in the process of transferring this technology to India and Indonesia.

Common diseases among third world children are AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis. However, IVI director general, John Clemens, stated, “Unfortunately, every year in Africa, 2,000,000 children die of diarrhea.”

The main causes for diarrhea are contagious diseases like cholera or rotavirus infections, which are caused by bacteria or viruses. Severe diarrhea leads to rapid dehydration, which can be fatal.

Developed vaccines cannot be inoculated right away. Vaccination frequency or supply amount is determined by an area’s population, sanitary facilities, health status, and outbreak frequency. IVI’s duties include this kind of research.

Last year, the IVI results for children in Bali, Indonesia showed that 8.2 children contract Japanese encephalitis annually. Clemens said, “The effects of vaccines are different for advanced and underdeveloped countries. Korean children only need three vaccinations for polio, but third world children need up to eight.” The numerous bacteria and viruses that thrive in the intestines of these children prevent the vaccines from working. Nutrition also plays a role. For example, lack of vitamins or zinc in the body inhibits the immune system, even after vaccination. Parasites are also impediments. The IVI is now studying the “group immunity effect” of vaccines. Even with a small portion of the population vaccinated in a given area, outbreaks can be curbed. The IVI recently reanalyzed clinical test results for edible cholera vaccines on 124,035 subjects in 6,423 areas of Bangladesh in 1985. Areas with a higher vaccination ratio had significantly smaller incidents of infection in both vaccinated and non-vaccinated persons. The vaccines prevented the spread of cholera bacteria and the non-vaccinated indirectly benefited from that.

Currently, at the IVI headquarters, staff are busy with the construction of new BSL3+ high-tech facilities. BSL3+ is superior to the grade-three bio security standards set by the United States and Europe, and is necessary for research institutes that handle dangerous pathogens. Doctor Song Min-ki of IVI said, “Upon completion, after the first half of this year, we’re going to commence the development of avian influenza vaccines. We have recently finished animal testing for the SARS vaccine as well.” Doctor Kwon Mi-na’s team at IVI announced the development of a dysenteric lab rat model in the Immunology Journal on February 15. The dysentery bacteria usually affects humans, so there were difficulties in finding a compatible lab animal for research.

Clemens emphasized, “Korea leads vaccine research in Asia. Now it’s time to bestow this technology upon underdeveloped countries.” Recently, Clemens was elected to the Board of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), led by the World Health Organization and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Norway plans to fund $892,000,000 over a 15-year period, and the Netherlands will grant $87,000,000 over a 5-year period, to GAVI.