|Press Release WHO/IFPMA
3 November 1999
WHO, PARTNER AGENCIES AND INDUSTRY LAUNCH UNIQUE VENTURE TO DEVELOP MALARIA DRUGS
In a first for international public health, public agencies have joined together with the private-sector to create a unique mechanism for developing anti-malarial drugs which otherwise would never have seen the light of the day. Called the Medicines for Malaria Venture, MMV will be established as an independent foundation under Swiss law.
Initial cosponsors of MMV are the World Health Organisation, the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Associations (IFPMA), the World Bank, the Government of the Netherlands, the UK Department for International Development, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, the Global Forum for Health Research, the Rockefeller Foundation and the global Roll Back Malaria Partnership. The goal of MMV, once its funding targets are achieved, is to secure, on average, the registration of one new antimalarial drug every five years. This will require raising some US$15 million per annum by 2001, rising to US$30 million per annum soon thereafter.
"MMV has been created because the increased costs of developing and registering pharmaceutical products, coupled with the prospects of inadequate commercial returns, have resulted in the withdrawal of the majority of research-based pharmaceutical companies from R&D investment in tropical diseases and especially from discovery research activities," said Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, WHO Director-General, as she and the cosponsors launched MMV today.
MMV will operate as a non-profit business. It will raise its capital and apply its funds to a selected number of promising drug R&D projects. Three drug discovery projects have already been identified and will be funded for a total of $4 million through 2000. MMV will provide the support necessary for such projects to maximise the likelihood they will lead to the development, registration and commercialisation of promising antimalarial medicines. MMV will seek resources from funders that share its public health goals, such as governments, foundations and philanthropic organisations, and from the pharmaceutical industry, whose commitment to the partnership is reflected through its donations of drug discovery expertise and related technology. MMV will be run by a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and will have a management team of about eight people. Until a permanent CEO is appointed, Dr. Robert Ridley of WHO will act in this role.
MMV's goal is that new anti-malarials are brought to the market and are accessible to those that need them. This will require a cash outlay of some US$150 million per new drug, complemented by "in-kind" support of a substantial nature from the pharmaceutical industry. Much of this support is highly specific to the industry, e.g. access to chemical libraries for high throughput molecular screening. For drug R&D this has a value that goes beyond what money can buy. If funding targets are reached, it is expected that the first products developed through MMV could be commercially available before 2010.
Mr. Lodewijk de Vink, President of IFPMA, stated that he "welcomes the creation of MMV, which symbolizes the start of a new era of partnership between the research-based pharmaceutical industry and WHO to bring about real improvements in world health":
MMV is the result of several years preparation by the industry and international development agencies. It has come to life through a dialogue between the World Health Organisation and pharmaceutical industry leaders, whose Roundtable discussions have been carried out in a spirit of cooperation to develop solutions to long-standing gaps in the health of people in developing nations.
MMV's creation was greatly facilitated by the first of these Roundtable discussions in October 1998. At the second Roundtable, today, representatives of WHO and industry agreed the need for national strategies to do more to ensure equitable access to, rational use of, and assured quality for existing medicinal drugs. They noted the critical importance of drug financing and affordability in improving medical care for poor people. They also agreed the continued necessity for high quality research, backed by appropriate incentives for innovation and protection of intellectual property, to develop new drugs for the conditions that contribute to widespread suffering and underdevelopment.
MMV is the response of the private and public sectors to the growing crisis of malaria and the high priority given to rolling back malaria by WHO and other partners. These include the governments of malaria affected countries, development banks, UN organisations, bilateral development agencies, research groups, commercial entities, non-governmental organisations and media groups. Each year between 300 and 500 million episodes of malaria illness result in well over one million people dying, and massive loss of earnings. Due to the spread of drug resistance, many well-tried malaria treatments are becoming ineffective. The public sector has maintained funding for basic science and clinical research but lacks the expertise, mechanisms and resources to discover, develop, register and commercialise new products. Through MMV, the private and public sectors are able to bring together the best of each others' strengths, and contribute to the Roll Back Malaria goal of halving the global malaria burden by the year 2010 and sustaining this effort into the future.
More information on MMV can be found at the following website:http://www.malariamedicines.org
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