Novartis spearheads innovative malaria research project in newly created public-private partnership
May 23, 2006
# Alliance of NITD, Wellcome Trust, Economic Development Board of Singapore and Medicines for Malaria Venture to jointly initiate research on malaria
# Aiming to develop next generation of drugs to treat malaria - estimated to kill over one million people and affect about 300 million to 500 million people annually
# Singapore-based NITD adds malaria to research focus in addition to current programs for dengue fever and tuberculosis
Basel, - Dr. Daniel Vasella, Chairman and CEO of Novartis, announced today that the Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases (NITD) will initiate research on malaria - estimated to annually kill more than one million people worldwide and one of the top three killer diseases in tropical countries - as part of a new public-private partnership.
The partnership, which includes the NITD, the Wellcome Trust, the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) and Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV), will all allocate resources to discover the next generation of malaria drugs.
Research at the Singapore-based NITD will focus on the development of a one-dose cure for Plasmodium falciparum, the most dangerous form of malaria, and a curative modality for Plasmodium vivax, the most frequent and widely distributed cause of malaria.
Approximately USD 20 million in funding has been granted from the Wellcome Trust, the EDB and MMV. The NITD will manage the program and conduct research jointly with several institutions, including the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation (GNF) and the Swiss Tropical Institute (STI).
“With 250 million people infected worldwide and more than one million deaths each year, malaria is one of the most pressing global health issues. This partnership will greatly increase our ability to fight the disease,” said Dr. Daniel Vasella, Chairman and CEO of Novartis. “NITD brings together the best of industry and academic knowledge along with technology and strong scientific networks. This funding will allow us to utilize these capabilities in the fight against malaria.”
Expert advice, project oversight and strategic support will be provided by the Wellcome Trust and Medicines for Malaria Venture.
“Malaria continues to kill millions of people around the world. Public-private partnerships are an effective model for developing new drugs for important but hitherto neglected diseases, such as malaria and tuberculosis. This partnership brings together a new group of funders to support an international consortium of researchers, from the public and private sector, to develop new drugs for the fight against malaria,” said Dr. Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome Trust.
The NITD, which is expanding its focus on tropical diseases to include malaria as well as dengue fever and tuberculosis, offers unique capabilities and access to both external and internal research networks. It was established in 2003 as a public-private partnership between Novartis and the Singapore Economic Development Board.
“The NITD is an important member of Singapore’s rapidly growing biomedical sciences research community,” said Mr Philip Yeo, Chairman of Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). “We are delighted that NITD will be expanding its operations as part of this collaboration. Singapore is pleased to support this important endeavor to develop better treatments for malaria and advance human healthcare around the world.”
This new partnership will investigate the potential for development of existing compounds that have already shown antimalarial activity, and explore novel compounds. Partners will perform basic and applied drug discovery research, including target identification, development of screening assays, synthesis and the testing of drug candidates.
“It is innovative collaborations like this that will transform the landscape of neglected diseases research,” said Dr. Chris Hentschel, President and CEO of MMV. “Only by working together and pooling our talent and resources will we be able turn the tide against this ancient scourge.”
Worldwide, experts estimate that there are between 300 and 500 million new cases of malaria each year, resulting in over one million deaths annually, 90% of which occur in children in Africa. Malaria morbidity and mortality rates are rising in developing countries, largely due to the emergence of drug resistant parasites rendering traditional antimalarial drugs, such as chloroquine and sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP) ineffective.
In addition to the devastating toll malaria takes on human life in terms of morbidity and mortality, the disease also has substantial negative impacts on the economic development of nations in which the disease is endemic. The drain on African economies alone is estimated to be USD 12 billion each year (WHO, 2000) and the threat of malaria can be a serious deterrent to tourism, further hampering economic development and growth.
Coartem is a highly effective and well tolerated antimalarial medicine that achieves cure rates of up to 95%, even in areas of multi-drug resistance. It is indicated for the treatment of falciparum malaria, the most dangerous form of malaria. Coartem is the only pre-qualified, fixed-dose ACT combining artemether, an artemisinin derivative, and lumefantrine. Under a public-private partnership with the WHO formed in 2001, Novartis provides Coartem at no profit for use in developing countries where malaria is endemic.
In 2005, Novartis delivered nine million treatment courses of the anti-malarial medicine Coartem at cost for public-sector use by patients in malaria-endemic countries. To meet demand, Novartis and partners on three continents have scaled up manufacturing capacity to make it possible to produce around 70 million treatment courses of Coartem by the end of 2006.
Coartem was co-developed by Novartis in collaboration with Chinese partners that also supply the active ingredients (artemether and lumefantrine), and Novartis produces the product in China and the US. Coartem is currently registered in 75 countries worldwide. Artemisinin is a compound derived from the sweet wormwood plant. This plant has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine to treat fever. Studies have shown that using two or more drugs in combination has the potential to delay the development of resistance in areas of low transmission. Artemisinin-based combination therapies in particular have been found to be highly effective in treating malaria and their potential to delay resistance in areas of intense transmission is under investigation.
About the Wellcome Trust
The Wellcome Trust is the most diverse biomedical research charity in the world, spending about �450 million every year both in the UK and internationally to support and promote research that will improve the health of humans and animals. The Trust was established under the will of Sir Henry Wellcome, and is funded from a private endowment, which is managed with long-term stability and growth in mind.
About the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) (www.biomed-singapore.com)
The Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) is the lead agency that plans and executes strategies to develop Singapore as a compelling global hub for business and investment. It enables multinational and Singapore-based companies to establish value-creating operations in both the manufacturing and internationally tradable services sectors.
The EDB Biomedical Sciences Group (EDB BMSG) is responsible for the development of the Biomedical Sciences industry. The BMS Group works closely with A*STAR’s Biomedical Research Council (BMRC), Bio*One Capital and other agencies to develop human, intellectual, and industrial capital in Singapore, in support of the Biomedical Sciences industry. A*STAR’s BMRC is the national body that is responsible for developing the human capital to support, sustain and stimulate public sector biomedical research and development activities in Singapore while Bio*One Capital is a dedicated BMS investment management company. Mr Philip Yeo, Chairman of A*STAR, spearheads Singapore’s BMS initiative and oversees all three groups.
About the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV)
Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) is a non-profit organization dedicated to reducing the burden of malaria in disease-endemic countries by discovering, developing and delivering new affordable antimalarial drugs through effective public-private partnership. After six years of operation, MMV is managing the largest-ever portfolio of malaria drug research with more than 20 projects in different stages of drug research and development. MMV’s goal is to register at least one new antimalarial before 2010 and maintain a sustainable pipeline of antimalarials to meet the needs of the 2.4 billion people at risk of this deadly disease.
Novartis AG (NYSE: NVS) is a world leader in offering medicines to protect health, treat disease and improve well-being. Our goal is to discover, develop and successfully market innovative products to treat patients, ease suffering and enhance the quality of life. Novartis is the only company with leadership positions in both patented and generic pharmaceuticals. We are strengthening our medicine-based portfolio, which is focused on strategic growth platforms in innovation-driven pharmaceuticals, high-quality and low-cost generics, human vaccines and leading self-medication OTC brands. In 2005, the Group’s businesses achieved net sales of USD 32.2 billion and net income of USD 6.1 billion. Approximately USD 4.8 billion was invested in R&D. Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Novartis Group companies employ approximately 96,000 people and operate in over 140 countries around the world. For more information, please visit http://www.novartis.com.
In total, the Novartis access-to-medicines programs, valued at nearly USD 700 million, benefited more than 6.5 million patients around the world. These initiatives range from drug donation and research programs to combat neglected diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and leprosy in developing nations to patient assistance programs that help cancer patients receive the most innovative and effective treatments.
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