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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Drug companies don't have much financial incentive to invest research and development dollars into new vaccines and antibiotics, leaving the world vulnerable to future pandemics.

Between the lines: The best-case scenario for these kinds of drugs is that they're lightly or never used. That doesn't sound very good to companies when their R&D dollars could alternatively go to diseases like cancer, which are much more likely to turn a sizable profit.

  • "The possibility for blockbuster sales motivates large drugmakers; little else moves the needle. The revenue potential for many infectious disease drugs is likely to remain limited, so other serious incentives are required," Bloomberg Opinion's Max Nisen writes.

Driving the news: The coronavirus, obviously, and the fact that it's revealed once again how unprepared the world is for a global pandemic.

By the numbers: 20 drug companies spent more than $2 billion on R&D over the last year, but only four of them have major vaccine units, per Bloomberg Opinion. Some drug companies have also stepped away from antibiotic development.

Yes, but: Some drug companies are rushing to develop vaccines to protect against the new virus, WSJ reports.

  • They include Moderna, Inovio Pharmaceuticals and Novavax Inc., as well as researchers at the University of Queensland in Australia.
  • The vaccines could be ready for human testing in a few months, but approval would take longer.

Go deeper: Dwindling antibiotics undermine fight against drug-resistant infections, WHO warns

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - World

UK government: Kremlin has plan "to install pro-Russian leadership" in Ukraine

British Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss. Photo: Gints Ivuskans / AFP via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary on Saturday night said the government has "information that indicates the Russian Government is looking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv as it considers whether to invade and occupy Ukraine."

Driving the news: U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne called the intelligence "deeply concerning" in a statement to Axios. The Biden administration has said Russia is actively manufacturing a pretext for invasion and warned that Putin could use joint military exercises in Belarus as cover to invade from the north.

Updated 4 hours ago - Science

This powerful new accelerator looks for keys to the center of atoms

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Nuclear physicists trying to piece together how atoms are built are about to get a powerful new tool.

Why it matters: When the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams begins experiments later this spring, physicists from around the world will use the particle accelerator to better understand the inner workings of atoms that make up all the matter that can be seen in the universe.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: FDA OKs antiviral drug remdesivir for non-hospitalized COVID patients — Walensky: CDC language "pivoting" on "fully vaccinated" — Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Teens and adults missed 37 million vaccinations during COVID — Team USA 100% vaccinated against COVID ahead of Beijing Olympics — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America — Annual COVID vaccine preferable to boosters, says Pfizer CEO.
  3. Politics: Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates — Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults — Beijing officials urge COVID-19 "emergency mode" before Winter Olympics.
  5. Variant tracker