|Press Release WHO/63
26 October 1999
JAPANESE GOVERNMENT, PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANIES TO JOIN WHO IN EFFORT TO FIND MORE EFFECTIVE ANTI-MALARIAL DRUGS
The impact of malaria on world health is enormous: over 1 million deaths each year, mostly small children in Africa; in excess of 300 million clinical cases of malaria each year causing an impact on morbidity (quality of life) greater than that of all the other tropical parasitic diseases put together; and, as a consequence, a major effect on economic productivity and livelihood in malaria endemic areas of the world.
But the development of anti-malaria drugs has not kept pace with the size of the problem and, in recognition of this, when World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland launched the Roll Back Malaria initiative last year, one of its primary objectives was to foster more research and development of antimalarials.
A new alliance launched today between WHO, the Japanese Ministry of Health and Welfare (MHW) and 12 Japanese pharmaceutical companies (1) is a major step in addressing this need.
"The Japanese pharmaceutical industry has been very successful in discovering new molecules of potential benefit in human medicine. Important new products have been developed successfully from these which are now used to treat a wide range of human diseases and ailments. However, in most cases, such molecules have not been tested for activity against malaria parasites.," said Dr Carlos Morel, Director of WHO's Programme on Tropical Disease Research (TDR), in Tokyo to launch the partnership.
In the new venture, called JPMW, molecules in the chemical libraries of the 12 Japanese pharmaceutical companies will be tested for antimalarial activity (ability to halt the growth of malaria parasites) by the Kitasato Institute (headed by Professor Satoshi Omura, who discovered the anti-parasite activity of the avermectins) in a project jointly funded by MHW and TDR. The Kitasato will also test some of the molecules in its own libraries. Hits (positive results in the test system) detected will be followed up by TDR and any candidate antimalarials discovered will be developed by TDR's virtual drug development operation.
Ten thousand molecules of diverse chemical structure will be tested over the next five years. "The prime objective of Roll Back Malaria is to halve the burden of malaria mortality and morbidity over the next decade. Such a reduction should be achievable possible with existing tools, but a further halving over the following decade will only be possible if new tools, including new antimalarial drugs, are developed during this decade. History tells us that an operation on this scale should lead to the successful discovery and development of a new class of antimalarial drug," said Dr Win Gutteridge, Chief of Product Research and Development in TDR.
Other recent malaria initiatives in which WHO is involved include the Multilateral Initiative on Malaria in Africa (MIM) and the New Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV). Both of these activities complement JPMW.
1) Chugai, Daiichi, Dainippon, Eisai, Fujisawa, Sankyo, Shionogi, Sumitomo, Suntory, Takeda, Yamanouchi, Yoshitomi
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