Merck gives malaria drug to non-profit group

18 Mar 2009
LONDON (Reuters) - Merck & Co is donating an experimental anti-malarial medicine to a not-for-profit research organization in the latest example of drugmakers stepping up efforts to address health issues in poor countries.

Companies have come under increasing pressure in recent years to do such deals in order to improve access to modern drugs in the developing world at affordable prices.

Last month, GlaxoSmithKline's chief executive urged the creation of a voluntary patent pool to spark development of new treatments for neglected diseases, including malaria.

Merck said on Wednesday it had granted the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) an exclusive, royalty-free license to develop a compound discovered by its scientists. Merck will have the option to partner the drug after completion of mid-stage tests.

By donating the new drug to MMV, the U.S. company hopes its clinical development will be accelerated.

(Reporting by Ben Hirschler; editing by Elaine Hardcastle)