PhD defence of Esther Pronker on Thursday 11 April 2013

Promotie Esther Pronker op donderdag 11 april 2013

On Thursday 11 April 2013 Esther Pronker will defend her PhD thesis entitled 'Innovation Paradox in Vaccine Target Selection'. Supervisors are Professors Harry Commandeur, Professor of Industrial Economics and Business at Erasmus School of Economics, and Eric Claassen, Professor in Knowledge Valorisation in the Life Sciences at Erasmus Medical Center. Other members of the Doctoral Committee are Professor Albert Osterhaus (Erasmus Medical Center), Professor Adam Cohen (Leiden University Medical Center), and Professor Enrico Pennings (Erasmus School of Economics).

Time and location

The PhD defence will take place in the Senate Hall of Erasmus University Rotterdam and will start at 13.30 hrs.

About the dissertation

Infectious diseases account for 15 million deaths annually. When taking a global perspective, infectious diseases are the second-leading cause of mortality, closely following cardiovascular conditions. Moreover, infectious diseases remain a leading major cause for disability and social and economic disorder, disproportionally affecting developing countries. Public health is continually threatened by re- and newly emerging infections, as well as pathogen resistance to available intervention strategies, including vaccines.

Prophylactic vaccines are considered the most cost-effective method for controlling the spread of these infectious pathogens. With tremendous collaborative effort between private and public sector, vaccines have become available for over 25 infectious diseases. Unfortunately, there are simply not enough resources available to address all the so-called unmet-medical needs, for two main reasons. First; vaccine development is both a high risk and resource intensive process. Developing the average vaccine candidate from the symbolic ‘bench to bedside’ takes approximately 10 years requiring an investment exceeding €400 million. Second; vaccine development is affected by the so-called innovation paradox. In short; regardless of increasing research and development activities, the predicted output - as measured by successful market entry of the commercialised product - is lacking behind. All things combined, it is critical to select the appropriate target disease area for vaccine development.

In her PhD dissertation entitled Innovation Paradox in Vaccine Target Selection, Esther Pronker evaluates the innovation paradox in selecting human infectious disease targets for vaccine development. When it comes to selecting the target, there is a distinction between the level at which the infectious disease is manifested (societal-level), and the level at which valorisation takes place (entrepreneurial- and organizational-level). The six research chapters offer an assessment into entrepreneurial- and organisational-level productivity, focusing on strategies that would potentially stimulate or restrict vaccine target selection.

Furthermore, Pronker proposes a number of sequential steps from bench-to-bedside and back again, through a so-called all-inclusive valorisation cycle. Such a cycle would allow for proper assessment into the available resources, in order to most accurately select the target disease area for vaccine development. Nevertheless, it is up to the biopharmaceutical community to demonstrate their innovative capacity within the context of valorisation in order to continue to develop safe and effective vaccines for the benefit of public health.

About Esther Pronker

Esther Sophia Pronker was born on 6 October 1985 in Nieuwegein, The Netherlands. She completed her primary education in Francophonic Abidjan, Ivory Coast and her secondary education in Anglophonic international schools in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. At the turn of the millennium she returned to The Netherlands where she completed an International Baccalaureate Diploma with high distinction, and continued to pursue a double Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry and Immunology at the University of Utrecht in 2007, graduating with high honours. After receiving her Master of Science degree in Management, Policy Analysis and Entrepreneurship in Health and Life Sciences at the VU University Amsterdam in 2009, Esther started a PhD programme. Under the supervision of Professor Eric Claassen and Professor Harry Commandeur, she conducted research on the topic of the innovation paradox in vaccine target selection. During the programme, Esther had the opportunity to present her work at the 2011 ESWI conference in Malta, and the 2012 MVADS conference in Copenhagen. Moreover, she was invited as a guest lecturer at the VU University Amsterdam and the University of Toronto, Canada. From June 2013, Esther will work at Viroclinics Biosciences as Director Business Developer.

Abstract of 'Innovation Paradox in Vaccine Target Selection'

Public health is continually threatened by re- and newly emerging infections, as well as pathogen resistance to available intervention strategies, including vaccines. This persistent threat of the unmet medical need challenges vaccine developers to anticipate future epidemiological outbreaks. Nevertheless, there are insufficient resources available to address all unmet medical needs:  developing the average vaccine candidate from the symbolic ‘bench to bedside’ takes approximately 10 years requiring an investment exceeding € 400 million. Furthermore, vaccine development is affected by the so-called innovation paradox. In short; regardless of increasing research and development activities, the predicted output - as measured by successful market entry of the commercialized product - is lacking behind. This situation has intensified over the past few decades and significantly impacts the productivity gap in vaccine valorisation. In the view that there is a correlation between health and wealth; it is critical to select the appropriate target disease area for vaccine development.

This dissertation evaluates the innovation paradox in selecting human infectious disease targets for vaccine development. When it comes to selecting the target, there is a distinction between the level at which the infectious disease is manifested (societal-level), and the level at which valorisation takes place (entrepreneurial- and organisational-level). This action-reaction reciprocity between the micro- and macro-level lies at the heart of the innovation paradox. The six research chapters offer an assessment into entrepreneurial- and organizational-level productivity, focusing on strategies that would potentially stimulate and restrict vaccine target selection. Additionally, we propose the valorisation process would be more efficient as an all-inclusive cycle, delineating a number of sequential steps from bench-to-bedside and back again. Such a cycle would allow for proper assessment into the available resources, in order to most accurately determine and address the unmet medical need. Nevertheless, it is up to the biopharmaceutical community to demonstrate their innovative capacity within the context of valorisation in order to continue to develop safe and effective vaccines for the benefit of public health.

More information

Pronker’s PhD research project is published within the ERIM PhD series and will be defended within the Erasmus Research Institute of Management (ERIM). ERIM is the joint research institute of Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) and the Erasmus School of Economics (ESE) at Erasmus University Rotterdam.

For more information about this ceremony, please contact Ronald de Groot, Communication Officer of the Erasmus School of Economics phone +31 10 408 1762 or by e-mail: rdegroot@ese.eur.nl.