The Power List 2017 – Champions of Change
Founder and Scientific Director, Fina Biosolutions LLC; Associate Professor of Medicine, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Center for Vaccine Development
“I am passionate about making conjugate vaccines affordable in order to give more people access to life-saving vaccines. When I discovered the usefulness of making vaccines through bioconjugation, I found a focus to my life. I have had the good fortune to invent a (relatively) simple and efficient conjugation chemistry – the now widely used CDAP conjugation method employed, for example, in GSK’s S. pneumo vaccine (Synflorix) and Pfizer’s meningococcal vaccine (Nimenrix).
“In addition, reducing the cost of conjugate vaccines in poor countries is dependent on the ability of emerging market vaccine companies to provide competition to major pharma. I started my company, Fina Biosolutions, with the concept of using my skills and technology to help emerging market vaccine companies learn to make conjugate vaccines. I worked with the Serum Institute of India to use CDAP chemistry for their low cost S. pneumo vaccine (now in phase 3). I also developed a new conjugation reagent for their meningococcal conjugate vaccine (now in phase 1).”
“My wife was pregnant and on a seven month bed-rest period. She had given up her high- paying job, and we only had my research instructor salary. With our two year old at home, I could only work in the evenings. Alone in the lab, late at night, I was evaluating a possible polysaccharide activation reagent, CDAP. I combined polysaccharide, reagent, and then protein to make an instant gel – showing crosslinking had occurred. It was a true eureka moment and it changed my life. CDAP allowed me to develop some financial independence and scientific recognition. It gave me the confidence and ability to start a company with a “not for much profit” approach.”
“I would like to see pharma and investors recognize and act on the fact that medicine and healthcare are not normal competitive markets. There needs to be a new contract between companies, government and consumers that recognizes the contributions and the needs of all stakeholders rather than a focus on investment returns.”