Vaccine research and development
The WHO Initiative for Vaccine Research (IVR) acts as a facilitator rather than a developer of vaccine-related activities. Only in exceptional situations, where an urgently needed vaccine or vaccination technology would not be developed otherwise, has IVR taken on the role of a "virtual" vaccine developer. IVR has a strong comparative advantage in the following functions, which serve as an umbrella for its vaccine research and development (R&D) programme of work.
Identification of vaccine research priorities
As the number of donors and technical actors supporting the development of vaccines increases, so does the demand for an independent evaluation of needs, an assessment of priorities, and coordination of efforts to optimize efficiency and alignment of activities. In this context, IVR identifies research gaps of particular relevance to low- and middle-income countries; establishes technical agendas to address these gaps; stimulates the implementation of the technical agendas; and synergizes its portfolio of activities with those of its partners.
Development of research standards and guidelines
IVR develops and supports standards and guidelines for research into vaccines and vaccination. These activities inform the establishment of new regulatory standards developed by the WHO Quality, Safety and Standards unit, harmonized methods, and tools that permit a comparison of research results. This is particularly relevant for new vaccine candidates as their mechanisms of action are often more complex than those of existing vaccines, and they target diseases with multiple clinical manifestations. In addition, IVR develops good practice guidelines for the appropriate and ethical conduct of research in developing countries, thereby encouraging public confidence and participation in research.
Strengthening research and product development capacity
An increasing number of countries are interested in establishing the technology base to develop and produce vaccines of assured quality. To meet these needs, IVR helps strengthen vaccine R&D capacity in low- and middle-income countries as an integral part of its projects. Examples of this are the provision of guidance on good clinical practice and support to the development of technology hubs and research networks. Moreover, in collaboration with the WHO Department on Public Health, Innovation, and Intellectual Property, IVR facilitates technology transfer to vaccine manufacturers for product development.