How Vaccines Became Big Business

January 3, 2010

Dr. Ossi came to the hastily arranged gathering of health officials and academics expecting to talk to them about his company’s research into anti-viral drugs and flu vaccine. But the health experts clustered around a handful of tables were not interested in hearing about the science behind such products. They had much more pressing concerns.

They only had one question, Dr. Ossi recalls: “How much can you make and how fast can you make it?”

It was a watershed moment for him. For most of his career, working in vaccine research – indeed, most research related to the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases – was a ticket to obscurity at a big drug company. The high stakes and big profits for companies like Glaxo were not in vaccines, but in multibillion-dollar blockbuster drugs: the Wellbutrins, the Zantacs and the Valtrexes

Paul Waldie and Grant Robertson explain how vaccines became big business.