DENMARK — The Novo Nordisk Foundation has committed up to US$260 million to establish an initiative dedicated to developing new or enhanced vaccines for severe respiratory diseases, including tuberculosis (TB) and influenza.

Developed in collaboration with the University of Copenhagen, this initiative, named the Novo Nordisk Foundation Initiative for Vaccines and Immunity (NIVI), is the first global effort solely focused on generating immunity in the airway to prevent airborne disease infections.

The primary research focus of NIVI will revolve around potential candidates for diseases such as TB, influenza, and Group A Streptococcus.

Current vaccines for TB have limitations, particularly in preventing lung disease in adolescents and adults, while flu shots offer only short-term protection. Additionally, there is currently no licensed vaccine available for Group A Streptococcus.

One of the significant ambitions of NIVI is to address the global challenge of antimicrobial resistance, a crisis exacerbated by the overuse or misuse of antibiotics for airway infections.

The foundation believes that a successful initiative could contribute to slowing the spread of antimicrobial resistance, offering a significant public health benefit.

Mads Krogsgaard Thomsen, Ph.D., CEO of the Novo Nordisk Foundation, envisions NIVI extending its impact beyond Denmark, with plans to broaden its reach globally.

The initiative aims to play a pivotal role in curbing the millions of respiratory-related deaths occurring worldwide each year.

Comprising two integral components, NIVI consists of the Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Vaccines and Immunity (NCVI), responsible for research, and the Novo Nordisk Foundation Vaccine Accelerator (NVAC P/S), a limited liability company tasked with licensing and developing vaccine technology, preparing injection formulations, and coordinating clinical testing.

NIVI will actively engage in collaborations with public and private partnerships, with a significant partnership already established with Denmark’s Statens Serum Institut.

The executive leadership of both NCVI and NVAC will be under the guidance of the NIVI executive director/CEO, a position expected to be announced in 2024.

The development of NIVI has been spearheaded by vaccinologist and Senior Vice President of Infectious Diseases at the Novo Nordisk Foundation, Peter Lawætz Andersen, Ph.D.

The Novo Nordisk Foundation, operating independently from Novo Nordisk, generated over US$1 billion in philanthropic grants and investments last year alone.

The foundation, part of the wider Novo network, is expected to nearly double its philanthropic contributions by the end of the decade.

CEO Thomsen, who assumed the role in 2021, has been instrumental in overseeing several clinically focused initiatives, including funding a major international center for stem cell medicine research.

The Novo Nordisk Foundation Institute for Vaccines and Immunity, one of Thomsen’s key initiatives, is geared towards actively advancing vaccines from research to clinical applications.

Thomsen’s mission is to streamline the foundation’s research work, making it more mission-driven and strategic.

As a philanthropic entity, the foundation’s goal is to bring about positive change in healthcare without being profit-driven.

The funding for these initiatives is derived from Novo Holdings, a separate entity responsible for maximizing the impact of revenues generated by Novo Nordisk.

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