Over the next decade, $5 million more came from the foundation. The federal government, the state, Kern County and nonprofits kicked in more, too. Total funding reached about $16 million.
But progress has faltered because of the exorbitant costs of manufacturing and testing the experimental vaccine in today's more rigorously controlled research environment. The early vaccine of the 1970s made it to human trials much more cheaply and easily because there were fewer quality control requirements and regulatory hurdles, Hector said.
Today, scientists are working on more sophisticated approaches that are more expensive and challenging to make.
For example, Dr. John Galgiani, a professor of medicine at the University of Arizona and the director of the Valley Fever Center for Excellence, has been working on a vaccine built from a specific protein. The work requires pristine lab conditions and advanced technology that greatly add to the costs, he said.
If funding were there, Galgiani said, he would be able to take his vaccine to human testing. But with scarce resources, he has been forced to look for ways to make the vaccine cheaper to manufacture.
Nearly all the money raised during the early excitement for a new vaccine has been spent and donations have dwindled, said Michael Cooper, president of the Valley Fever Americas Foundation, which raises funds for the vaccine project.
Dr. Mark D. Smith, president and chief executive officer of the California HealthCare Foundation, said it stopped supporting the vaccine project because the foundation is not set up to thoroughly evaluate such scientific research.
"Basic science is extremely expensive," Smith wrote in an e-mail. "The researchers we funded had encountered a number of technical and scientific obstacles (not uncommon in vaccine development). We simply weren't in a position to evaluate the merits of alternative research strategies, particularly at that price."
The recession and the state's budget crisis have had an effect as well.
However, in the wake of the Reporting on Health Collaborative's series on valley fever, state Sen. Michael Rubio, D-Shafter, said he intends to try to revive state funding for vaccine research.
The Valley Fever Americas Foundation remains financially committed.
"We are still continuing to have different fund-raising events and we're conducting health fairs and different things to try to keep the grass-roots going," Cooper said.
The foundation has invested close to $1 million over the years for the Valley Fever Vaccine Project, he said.
Kern County has committed $50,000 for the current fiscal year.
Ignoring valley fever
For a vaccine to be brought to market would require, by some estimates, an additional $100 million in research funding. Galgiani estimated it would take $40 million just to begin human clinical trials.
That's the kind of money only the pharmaceutical industry can provide.
U.S. pharmaceutical companies are working on about 300 vaccines for diseases, including HIV and pancreatic cancer. But no U.S. pharmaceutical company is funding development of a vaccine for valley fever, according to a 2012 report compiled by the trade association Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.
The Reporting on Health Collaborative contacted nine U.S. pharmaceutical companies to ask what might be holding back interest in funding valley fever research. Most companies didn't return telephone calls and e-mails and others did not want to speak on the record.