Mount Sinai School of Medicine has just entered into “a territory limited license agreement with Avimex Animal Health” to produce a new biological that combines an H5 flu vaccine combined with portion of another important disease virus for commercial poultry, Newcastle Disease.
The privately owned world-leader in the avian influenza H5 emulsified vaccine market will use Mount Sinai’s patented live recombinant Newcastle disease technology that contains an insertion of the H5 gene, for use in Brazil, India, Japan, Mexico, and Taiwan.
Inventors, Peter Palese, PhD, Chairman and Professor, Microbiology, Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Adolfo Garcia-Sastre, PhD, Professor, Microbiology, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, added the H5 gene to the Newcastle vaccine. When chickens were exposed to avian influenza and the Newcastle virus, birds vaccinated with the recombinant vaccine produced protection for both viruses.
“This effective combination vaccine protects against both Newcastle disease and avian influenza, and gives us the opportunity to eliminate two dreaded diseases in the poultry population, worldwide, for the first time,” said Dr. Palese. “This vaccine became possible through extraordinary advances in the laboratory which allowed for the development of genetic engineering techniques for these RNA viruses, Newcastle disease and avian influenza.” (Press Release)
I have no doubt this is “a good thing.” Peter Palese is a genuinely nice person, intellectually honest and one of the deans of US flu science. His co-inventor, Dr. Garcia-Sastre is very prominent in the field and while I don’t know him personally, I have no reason to think he also isn’t a sterling human being. Mt. Sinai is an important research medical center and I have had the pleasure of working with and knowing people there for many years. So what’s my problem?
Dr. Palese made the point: “This vaccine became possible through extraordinary advances in the laboratory which allowed for the development of genetic engineering techniques for these RNA viruses, Newcastle disease and avian influenza.”
Most of this was done with taxpayer money and for a problem of world wide public health importance. Why isn’t this being issued under a public license or put in the public domain? Exactly this has already been done by another prominent scientist, Prof. Elias Corey at Harvard, who devised a new, quick and much cheaper way to make the antiviral Tamiflu and put the process in the public domain.
Corey isn’t just anybody. He’s a Nobel Laureate in Chemistry. And he deserves a prize in world citizenship, too. It would have been nice if Mt. Sinai and the two co-inventors had also done this. It’s holding them to a high standard, I know. But why not?
It’s the right thing to do and the times demand it.