By offering the €2m ($2.6m) prize the European Commission (EC) hopes to stimulate research into vaccine stability. More stable vaccines would cut the risk posed by the lack of consistent cold-chain in some developing countries.
“Many people in tropical and developing countries cannot benefit from life-saving vaccines as these vaccines are damaged before they can reach them”, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, research, innovation and science commissioner for Europe, said.
To win the prize an applicant must convince a panel of experts that their system enables transport of multiple different types of vaccines in field conditions with no loss of potency or effectiveness. The vaccine’s safety profile must also remain unchanged.
“The World Health Organization estimates that half of all supplied vaccine doses are wasted. Since most of this wastage is caused by an inadequate cold-chain, there is an urgent need for alternatives or cost-effective improvements on existing technologies”, the EC wrote.
Cost is a complicating factor. As organisations will use the system to distribute vaccines to developing countries they must be able to implement it “at reasonable cost”. The press release gives no details of what cost is “reasonable”.
Judging is expected to take place later this year with the winner being announced in the first quarter of 2013. Applicants must be established as legal entities in the European Union and associated countries.