Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis is
spearheading a new public-private partnership aimed at discovering a
new generation of malaria treatments.
The Wellcome Trust charity, the Singapore Economic
Development Board (EDB), and Geneva-based non-profit organisation
Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV), will assist in the hunt for a
one-dose malaria cure.
Novartis already produces a malaria drug, Coartem, which it provides
at cost price to developing countries which suffer an estimated one
million deaths a year from malaria.
The Singapore-based Novartis
Institute for Tropical Diseases (NITD) will take the lead in developing
new drugs together with the Swiss Tropical Institute and other
institutions. The firm will provide industry expertise and open up its
extensive library of compounds to its partners.
"We are in an
industry where diseases and human beings are at the centre of our
work," said Novartis chairman and chief executive Daniel Vasella.
been criticised in the past for not funding neglected diseases, our
industry has a strong purpose to play an active role in society."
president Chris Hentschel said the public-private partnership presented
the best way of including profit minded companies in a non-profit
"Malaria does not create an industry [for
pharmaceuticals] because it affects the poor and children," he said.
"And public sector research rarely ends up with products."
of that we must come up with other mechanisms to engage industry. The
public-private partnership is a remedy that produces a tangible
The Wellcome Trust has already invested $300 million
(SFr362 million) into basic malaria research and, together with the EDB
and MMV, will inject a further $20 million into the project.
But another issue the partnership must tackle is overcoming the problem of getting drugs to patients in developing countries.
is not all about having a new molecule, but it has to reach the patient
in a way that they can use it," NITD chairman Paul Herrling told
"That implies distribution and knowing the culture in
these countries. Our partners have people in the field who know the
patients and the environment. Our different skills have to come
together to have a successful outcome."
The main reason the
partnership wants to find a single course malaria cure is to make it
easier for patients who often fail to complete a multiple course of
But Vasella also pointed the finger at some governments
in affected countries for not doing enough to ensure supply to malaria
"There is a tendency for governments to shift the
responsibility for delivering drug supplies on to the private sector,"
"We can contribute, but we can't solve the problems of
education and supply. Governments must make sure treatments go to the