University of Sussex
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Knowledge accumulation and vaccine innovation: lessons from polio and HIV/AIDS

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posted on 2023-06-07, 15:25 authored by Ohid YaqubOhid Yaqub
This thesis contrasts vaccine innovation efforts in the cases of poliomyelitis and HIV/AIDS. It addresses the question of why some fields of human endeavour can be seen to yield positive change more quickly than others. The thesis develops a perspective that views innovation as a cumulative learning process. It employs the notion of a ‘testing regime’ to draw attention to the role of testing in driving this carefully managed learning process during the development of vaccines. Repeated testing, under conditions that are varied using instruments and skill, generates knowledge that is reliable and robust for technological purposes. Governance is needed to co-ordinate this process of testing to ensure the resulting knowledge growth is shared and cumulative. This lens is used to explore the creation of intermediate conditions, the development of instrumentalities, and the role of governance in vaccine innovation processes. The thesis uses the notion of ‘social visions’ to explore how attention directed to poliomyelitis contrasted with neglect and apathy afforded to AIDS in its early manifestations. Shared, rather than competing, visions are found to play a significant role in setting the vaccine innovation process in motion. However, the thesis finds that key pathogenic features of the virus and certain ethical and safety stances make learning and the accumulation of technological knowledge inherently difficult. Importantly, the thesis finds policy measures can mitigate or exacerbate these learning challenges considerably. Whilst greater market support and increased research funding tend to be positive contributions to vaccine development, this research shows they are only part of what is needed to take ideas through to innovation. The empirical evidence gathered in this thesis, when viewed through the testing regime lens, suggests that science and innovation are distinct activities but their inter-relationships can be enhanced with the development of an infrastructure focussed on nurturing skills, fostering the use of new techniques, encouraging the development of new instruments, and implementing governance measures to co-ordinate testing efforts and resources.


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  • SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit Theses

Qualification level

  • doctoral

Qualification name

  • dphil


  • eng


University of Sussex

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