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Long Shot Vaccines for National Defense by Kendall Hoyt

Long Shot Vaccines for National Defense


Long Shot Vaccines for National Defense by Kendall Hoyt

At the turn of the twenty-first century, the United States contended with a state-run biological warfare program, bioterrorism, and a pandemic. Together, these threats spurred large-scale government demand for new vaccines, but few have materialized. A new anthrax vaccine has been a priority since the first Gulf War, but twenty years and a billion dollars later, the United States still does not have one. This failure is startling. Historically, the United States has excelled at responding to national health emergencies. World War II era programs developed ten new or improved vaccines, often in time to meet the objectives of particular military missions. Probing the history of vaccine development for factors that foster timely innovation, Kendall Hoyt discovered that vaccine innovation has been falling, not rising, since World War II. This finding is at odds with prevailing theories of market-based innovation and suggests that a collection of nonmarket factors drove mid-century innovation. Ironically, many late-twentieth-century developments that have been celebrated as a boon for innovation--the birth of a biotechnology industry and the rise of specialization and outsourcing--undercut the collaborative networks and research practices that drove successful vaccine projects in the past. Hoyt's timely investigation teaches important lessons for our efforts to rebuild twenty-first-century biodefense capabilities, especially when the financial payback for a particular vaccine is low, but the social returns are high.


Innovations in research and development and the importance of vaccines to public health--second only to clean water--are vital issues...All citizens need to know more about these subjects. -- Mary Chitty Library Journal 20120215 The history of vaccine development records periods of pronounced and of minimum productivity. The latter, according to Hoyt, describes the current development status and represents a danger to both civilian and military needs, most particularly to national defense objectives...Considering the magnitude of the problems, Hoyt's suggestions are well presented and reasonable and reflect an acute awareness of overall issues and concerns. -- R. S. Kowalczyk Choice 20121001

About the Author

Kendall Hoyt is Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, Dartmouth Medical School and Lecturer, Thayer School of Engineering, Dartmouth College.

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Book Info

Publication date

13th January 2012


Kendall Hoyt

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Harvard University Press


320 pages


Public health & preventive medicine
Chemical & biological weapons
History of the Americas



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