Patterico's Pontifications


NIH: We Could Have Developed an Ebola Vaccine But for Budget Cuts

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 11:23 am

A few days ago, I noted that the CDC had claimed that, absent budget cuts, they would have been able to detect, identify, and contain Ebola. I noted some past comedic expenditures by CDC that show that they aren’t exactly careful with the public’s money — employee fitness centers with zero-gravity chairs and mood-enhancing light shows, and multi-million dollar boondoggles named after Senators who showered money on them.

The government bureaucrats are getting more aggressive in their claims. Now they say they could have, no doubt, developed a vaccine but for budget cuts by Republicans. Here’s NIH Director Francis Collins talking to HuffPo:

Frankly, if we had not gone through our 10-year slide in research support, we probably would have had a vaccine in time for this that would’ve gone through clinical trials and would have been ready.

Time for us to get a little more aggressive about showing how NIH has wasted our money. Courtesy of Noah Rothman at Hot Air, we see that Twitter user “CounterMoonbat” is on the job, with numerous examples of NIH waste, including:

  • $325,525 for a study concluding that wives would argue less with their husbands if they would just calm down quicker.
  • $386,000 to massage rabbits to determine the best length of time for a massage. (Judging from feedback from Mrs. P. the correct answer is: there is no set length of time. Just keep going. I just gave you that insight for free!)
  • $939,771 to find out why fruit flies fall in love.
  • $666,905 to see why people like watching Seinfeld re-runs.
  • $350,000 researching how golfers perform better when using their imagination”

Obama, who just racked up his 200th round of golf in office, would be interested in that one.

Still more examples here from Erick Erickson.

Government is the only enterprise which fails and then asks for more money, citing its failure as justification for extra cash. A business that did that would quickly go under.

Government funding of science is wasteful. Private industry spends money on basic science for many reasons, but when government comes along and spends money, it actually reduces total spending on science. I think there is an argument for a very basic CDC to prevent outbreaks of disease, but 1) they could do it on far less money, and 2) it’s high time they focused on that core issue and left research to private industry.

UPDATE: This post actually relates to the NIH, not the CDC. (Thanks to Art Deco.) I changed it in the headline and in three places in the post. All the examples, however, relate to the NIH and not CDC and are valid responses to the claim by the NIH director.

42 Responses to “NIH: We Could Have Developed an Ebola Vaccine But for Budget Cuts”

  1. Ding.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  2. The CDC has been an arm of the DNC for years but it has gotten intense the past few.

    They are interested in everything but communicable diseases.

    Gun “Violence.”

    Lesbian obesity

    What happened with anthrax ?

    Congressional Republicans asked the Obama administration on Wednesday to provide documents related to last month’s anthrax scare at a U.S. lab, where more than 80 people were initially feared to be exposed to the deadly pathogen.

    In a series of letters, top Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee asked for the results of several Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lab inspections and audits of potential weaknesses in biosecurity protocols dating back to October 2007.

    They are as incompetent as Obama. That is especially true with their basic mission.

    Mike K (90dfdc)

  3. A fine example of mob behavior. The crowd devolves into its basest, most vulgar instincts.`

    gary gulrud (46ca75)

  4. I would argue that things like Ebola, Marburg, Lassa, Q-fever, and Hantavirus which aren’t exactly “run of the mill” require some level of government subsidy. that said the model should be to send out for bidding an R&D contract with verifyable and achievable goals such as for things like a 100K supply of quick test strips for each disease with a 98%+ accuracy rate, not unlike the quick test strips for Strep or Influenza. or for a vaccine with greater than a 70% protection rate.

    Rorschach (61bf43)

  5. Was Dr. Collins referring to the CDC or his own agency?

    The NIH has a budget more than 10x that of the CDC. Just their in-house and contract research exceeds CDC’s whole budget by a factor of 4, much less the patronage they shower on the academic community.

    Here’s a suggestion:

    1. re-purpose the CDC as an emergency response agency, i.e. part of the civil defense apparat, concerned with communicable illness and perhaps illness from accidents like chemical exposures. Research they do would be support for that basic mission. The statistical collection could be dispatched elsewhere, the patronage programs terminated, and all other subunits shut down.

    2. re-purpose the NIH as an agency engaged in in-house and contract research on medical problems derived from infectious agents, environmental agents, or generating public order problems. You might add research support for health and safety regulators. End the patronage programs (over 60% of their budget). Institute a one-shot endowment for most of the institutes and turn them over to incorporated foundations run by trustees elected by medical school deans and hospital directors. That means you might have an institute devoted to infectious diseases, one to chemical exposures, one to schizophrenia, one to senile dementia, and the rest go on the bloc.

    Art Deco (ee8de5)

  6. Has the CDC ever developed a vaccine?

    …Pre-Clinical Stage

    Pre-clinical studies use tissue-culture or cell-culture systems and animal testing to assess the safety of the candidate vaccine and its immunogenicity, or ability to provoke an immune response. Animal subjects may include mice and monkeys. These studies give researchers an idea of the cellular responses they might expect in humans. They may also suggest a safe starting dose for the next phase of research as well as a safe method of administering the vaccine.

    Researchers may adapt the candidate vaccine during the pre-clinical state to try to make it more effective. They may also do challenge studies with the animals, meaning that they vaccinate the animals and then try to infect them with the target pathogen. Challenge studies are never conducted in humans.

    Many candidate vaccines never progress beyond this stage because they fail to produce the desired immune response. The pre-clinical stages often lasts 1-2 years and usually involves researchers in private industry.

    IND Application

    A sponsor, usually a private company, submits an application for an Investigational New Drug (IND) to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The sponsor describes the manufacturing and testing processes, summarizes the laboratory reports, and describes the proposed study. An institutional review board, representing an institution where the clinical trial will be conducted, must approve the clinical protocol. The FDA has 30 days to approve the application.

    Once the IND application has been approved, the vaccine is subject to three phases of testing….

    Perhaps, but no doubt just a fraction of the vaccines developed by “Big Pharma.” Although private industry has scaled back a lot when it comes to developing and producing vaccines.

    But one of the big clues is to compare the number of Nobel Prizes in medical research awarded to Americans as opposed to other parts of the globe such as Europe. The difference is staggering. I went back to 1972, which I figured was a good starting point. Why? Because by then much of the world had adopted government run health care. And since that has become the case, much of the rest of the world has depended on the US for medical advances. One of the reasons why government run health care is cheaper is because governments just don’t fund the research, but private enterprise will (as long as government policies don’t punish them for doing so). In fact, of the far fewer European or Japanese doctors and researchers who’ve received Nobel Prizes in Medicine, many of those actually received their awards for research done entirely or in large part in the US.

    Essentially, the US has been the engine pulling the medical research train for the last 50 years or so. Now that we have Obamacare, we’re all riding in that train and nobody is pulling it.

    Steve57 (4d34f4)

  7. UPDATE: This post actually relates to the NIH, not the CDC. (Thanks to Art Deco.) I changed it in the headline and in three places in the post. All the examples, however, relate to the NIH and not CDC and are valid responses to the claim by the NIH director.

    Patterico (9c670f)

  8. Off topic: Clark at Popehat has piece up discussing our Americaness and a favorite book, Albion’s Seed:

    SarahW (267b14)

  9. My respect for Collins has taken a dive, unless he has a gun, metaphorical most likely, pointed to his head.

    MD in Philly (f9371b)

  10. HA ha I am immunz to hantavirus. Not really, I’ll just have a benign clinical course and lots of iritis. HLA-B27 for the win!

    SarahW (267b14)

  11. Well SarahW, the next time I need to open up a mouse-infested cabin in the Poconos, I’ve got a job for you…

    MD in Philly (f9371b)

  12. To the Government Bureaucrat, the marginal increment in money is always the problem solver, never the monumental amount of waste.

    Rodney King's Spirit (8b9b5a)

  13. The NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases updated its website on September 8, 2014, to applaud its long-term efforts researching Ebola/Marburg treatments and vaccines:

    Ebola/Marburg Research

    The molecular events that affect disease transmission and human response to Ebola and Marburg viruses are poorly understood. Researchers in NIAID’s Division of Intramural Research and Vaccine Research Center as well as NIAID-supported scientists at external institutions are studying all aspects of Ebola and Marburg viruses and how they cause disease. This includes seeking better ways to diagnose and treat Ebola and Marburg fevers, and using applied research to develop diagnostics, vaccines, and therapeutics.

    Ebola Vaccine Research

    The Vaccine Research Center (VRC) has developed an Ebola vaccine candidate in collaboration with Okairos, a Swiss-Italian biotech company recently acquired by GSK. The investigational vaccine, which was designed by VRC scientists, contains no infectious Ebola virus material. It is a chimpanzee adenovirus vector vaccine into which two Ebola genes have been inserted. This is a non-replicating viral vector, which means the vaccine enters a cell, delivers the gene inserts and does not replicate further. The gene inserts express a protein to which the body makes an immune response. The investigational vaccine has recently shown promise in a primate model. The VRC vaccine will enter into a phase 1 clinical trial, which could start enrollment as early as fall 2014, pending approval by the FDA. The VRC is also in discussions with governmental and non-governmental partners regarding options for advancing this candidate beyond Phase I clinical evaluation.

    Additionally, NIAID’s Division of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases is supporting the Crucell biopharmaceutical company’s development of a multivalent Ebola/Marburg vaccine using recombinant adenovirus vector platforms. A Phase I clinical trial is planned for late 2015 or early 2016. NIAID is also funding Profectus Biosciences to develop and test a recombinant vesicular stomatitis virus vectored vaccine against Ebolavirus. The vaccine is currently in preclinical testing to determine the most promising constructs. In addition, NIAID is working with Bavarian Nordic on development of a recombinant Marburg vaccine candidate that uses the Modified Vaccinia Ankara vector.

    Investigators from NIAID’s Division of Intramural Research and Thomas Jefferson University are collaborating to develop a candidate Ebola vaccine based on the established rabies virus vaccine that has demonstrated protection against rabies and Ebola infection in animals. This research team is pursuing an inactivated version of this vaccine for human and veterinary use and a live vaccine for use in wildlife in Africa to help prevent the transmission of Ebolavirus from animals to humans.

    At this point, I want a list of government officials who aren’t lying liars.

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  14. I’m sure it’s a short list.

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  15. The vaccine story should be that the Clintons decimated the vaccine industry in the 90s. They took over the production and distribution with a single source and price cuts that caused many companies to go out of the business. The following from 2003.

    Everyone knows America’s vaccine industry is in serious trouble, with an ever dwindling number of producers and recent severe vaccine shortages. What everyone also should know is that the National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine has now pinned much of the blame on Hillary Rodham Clinton.

    Well, not in so many words. The panel of doctors and economists issuing a report on vaccines last week was too polite to mention the former First Lady by name. But they identify as a fundamental cause of the problem the fact that the government purchases 55% of the childhood vaccine market at forced discount prices. The result has been “declining financial incentives to develop and produce vaccines.”

    The root of this government role goes back to August 1993, when Congress passed Mrs. Clinton’s Vaccines for Children program. A dream of Hillary’s friends at the Children’s Defense Fund, her vaccines plan was to use federal power to ensure universal immunization. So the government agreed to purchase a third of the national vaccine supply (the Clintons had pushed for 100%) at a forced discount of half price, then distribute it to doctors to deliver to the poor and the un- and under-insured.

    Naturally, HuffPo comments is full of attacks on private companies that actually make vaccines and drugs. Notice the law was passed in 1993, when Congress was Democrat in both houses.

    Mike K (90dfdc)

  16. Here is your list, DRJ


    Wash rinse repeat

    JD (9477af)

  17. Doc, O/T but I’ve been meaning to ask you. Can you explain Philly to me?

    ‘That broad took my leg!': Female fan steals Vietnam vet’s prosthetic limb at Philadelphia Eagles game

    Because I don’t get it.

    Steve57 (4d34f4)

  18. By “we” do they mean them and someone unidentified qualified to do the job?

    It is easy now to make a statement to try to deflect blame (hmmm that sounds like Obama). However, their current response on safety precautions and travel restrictions which are no brainer solutions does not instill me with any confidence they would be able to do anything which requires scientific thought.

    Summerwarmth (44603a)

  19. DRJ, assuming such a list could even be made, it wouldn’t, because the White House would just fire everyone on it and replace them with DNC operatives.

    edoc118 (8b952d)

  20. A huge amount of knowledge about biology in general and genetics in particular has been learned by studying fruit flies. Seinfeld not so much.

    LTEC (857bcb)

  21. Fruit flies in genetic research go back to 1910 and Thomas Hunt Morgan. That, of course, preceded our understanding of genes and DNA.

    Thomas Hunt Morgan began using fruit flies in experimental studies of heredity at Columbia University in 1910. His laboratory was located on the top floor of Schermerhorn Hall, which became known as the Fly Room. The Fly Room was cramped with eight desks, each occupied by students and their experiments. They started off experiments using milk bottles to rear the fruit flies and handheld lenses for observing their traits. The lenses were later replaced by microscopes, which enhanced their observations. The Fly Room was the source of some of the most important research in the history of biology. Morgan and his students eventually elucidated many basic principles of heredity, including sex-linked inheritance, epistasis, multiple alleles, and gene mapping.[16]

    “Thomas Hunt Morgan and colleagues extended Mendel’s work by describing X-linked inheritance and by showing that genes located on the same chromosome do not show independent assortment.

    Today it continues in wide use and they are low maintenance.

    I have previously run into arguments about evolution on conservative blogs, including Ann Althouse and Ricochet. Genetics requires an understanding of evolution.

    Fruit flies share 75% of the genes that cause disease with humans, so scientists can learn about human genetics by studying fruit fly genetics. It is not only the flies themselves that the scientists are interested in, but also understanding the basic biology that all organisms have in common. There are hundreds of labs across the country who are entirely dedicated to studying fruit flies, including ten here at UNC.

    Modern medicine is going to be mostly genetic and so I think it important to understand evolution

    Obviously not everyone agrees but I think it important that doctors and especially medical students do.

    Mike K (90dfdc)

  22. The IRS sent back my tax return saying I owed $800. I said “If you’ll notice, I sent a paper clip with my return. Given what you’ve been paying for things lately, that should more than make up the difference.” — Emo Phillips

    nk (dbc370)

  23. Yes, fruit flies have been a very useful tool in biology in studying genetics.
    But I always thought they supported the idea of spontaneous generation, rather than evolution, myself. You never see them around, and as soon as some fruit on the windowsill gets old, there they are!!!

    MD in Philly (f9371b)

  24. yes, but that particular study, was about fruit fly match making,

    narciso (ee1f88)

  25. The statement by the head of the NIH was carefully predicated on numbers from FY 2004 to date, since FY 2004 represented a giant one-year gain in funding for NIH, presumably for AIDS/HIV research. Had he gone back only one more year, or better, two years, the 2013 numbers would look pretty respectable. But, of course, numbers lie, which is the point. 2014 budgeting calls for about a 3% raise for NIH I think, before the Ebola hoopla which will undoubtedly raise the stakes. Oh, there was also a significant bump during the Obama stimulus years, which also tends to make more recent years look stagnant unless placed in context.

    BTW, a list of 100 grants which NIH classifies as similar to the “Why are lesbians fat but gay men thin?” study is here. The NIH web site will only list a maximum of 100. A quick scan certainly finds a number which seem, on first gleaning, to be, at the least, suspicious.

    e.g. “Online partnering of heterosexuals and HIV risk” (one wants to say ‘No sh*t?’) , MULTILEVEL LONGITUDINAL MODELS AND CAUSAL NETWORKS FOR CHILDHOOD OBESITY (the study’s authors claim to “…propose to develop and apply innovative statistical methods…” so you know it’s BS whenever one sees ‘develop…innovative’ in the same sentence), DEVELOPING A PEER ADVOCATE INTERVENTION FOR RURAL LGBT POPULATIONS (a fairly specific and unique population apparently, needing their own specific support), more…All very worthwhile, I’m certain, but the NIH director claims lack of funding for critical research is, in effect, killing people. So, choosing priorities may be in order for that gentleman.

    JCC (469de6)

  26. It is sort of curious that on July 31, 2014 Obama signed an Executive Order modifying quarantine protocols for infectious diseases which could cause a pandemic. I am sure it is just a big fat coincidence and nothing related to the mysterious outbreak of Enterovirus D68 on which the government remains largely silent or the potential danger of ebola which we a reliably infomed by the government there is none because the system works.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  27. $325,525 for a study concluding that wives would argue less with their husbands if they would just calm down quicker.

    now THERE is a vaccine we need.

    redc1c4 (269d8e)

  28. redc1c4 – There’s an App for that.

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  29. coincidence?
    thanks for the link, daleyrocks

    mg (31009b)

  30. diseased obama urchins are the gift what keeps on giving

    kinda like Harry & David

    just not as tasty

    happyfeet (a785d5)

  31. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will see an 8.2 percent budget increase for fiscal 2014, thanks to a $1.1 trillion spending bill announced by Congress Jan. 13.

    This influx of cash will raise the CDC budget to $6.9 billion, which is $567 million more than it received in 2013. This is more than the agency anticipated, because the president’s fiscal year 2014 budget request for it was just $6.6 billion — a decrease of $270 million from fiscal 2012.

    Which makes Doctor Collins a damn liar, the administration that supports him a fraud and the entire CDC criminally negligent in this matter. Our government in almost every aspect, and now even public health, has become a criminal enterprise.

    Hoagie (4dfb34)

  32. Perhaps if the NIH/CDC were being run by people less concerned with Political Correctness, and more concerned with epidemiology, they wouldn’t be wasting obscene amounts of money on research into things beyond the scope of their charters – how’s that Lesbian Obesity project coming along?

    askeptic (efcf22)

  33. us government lol

    happyfeet (a785d5)

  34. The decrease in funding didn’t seem to affect big pharma’s development of a swine flu vaccine in 2008-2009.

    School Marm (1dd499)

  35. Genetics requires an understanding of evolution.

    Mike K (90dfdc) — 10/13/2014 @ 1:28 pm

    The science of genetics was largely created by Gregor Mendel, “the father of genetics” a creationist. He strongly opposed Darwin’s theories. His paper “Experiments in Plant Hybridization” was an implicit dissent from Darwin’s theories.

    Gerald A (d65c67)

  36. Meanwhile, as the NIH and CDC whine about minor cuts to the annual increases in their lavish budgets, the private sector comes through.

    In Canada.

    Steve57 (4d34f4)

  37. Links from narciso, follow them.
    That’s interesting that such a study was done. I have no idea on what scale widespread testing could be implemented.

    It would not predict everyone who would eventually contract Ebola, but if it is negative, that would strongly suggest that the person was non-infectious at the time, having such a low viral burden.

    MD in Philly (f9371b)

  38. Did they find out why lesbians are fat? Or is more research needed?

    nk (dbc370)

  39. A lot of these “studies” are no more than graft.

    Kevin M (b357ee)

  40. Is quarantine against disease something new? If no, can someone tell the federal government.

    Ag80 (eb6ffa)

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