Battle Joined: Knowledge Pool Created to Fight Neglected Diseases

Scientific discoveries happen when researchers collaborate. That’s the thinking behind a partnership formed by GlaxoSmithKline and Alnylam Pharmaceuticals to share intellectual property (IP) and industrial know-how to develop new therapies to treat the world’s most neglected tropical diseases.

The IP Pool, originally formed in February 2009, will be managed by BIO Ventures for Global Health, a nonprofit group dedicated to saving lives by accelerating the development of biotechnology-based drugs, vaccines and diagnostics to address unmet needs in the developing world.

The pool targets 16 diseases identified by the U.S. Agency for International Development for its Neglected Tropical Diseases Initiative, including tuberculosis, malaria, cholera and leprosy. The geographic focus of the pool will be the world’s least developed countries as defined by the United Nations, and includes much of western and central Africa, as well as several countries in Southeast Asia.

“New medicines for diseases that primarily affect the poor in developing countries have been slow in coming because, although the market is large in numbers, most of the people affected and their governments cannot afford to pay even moderate prices,” says Melinda Moree, CEO of BIO Ventures for Global Health.

“We applaud the actions of GSK, Alnylam and other forward-thinking companies that want to contribute their knowledge and resources to help speed the development of medicines for poor patients in the developing world,” Moree says. “The fact is that millions of people die each year from these neglected diseases, and the pace of drug development is far too slow.”

Speeding Up R&D

As the pool’s administrator, BIO Ventures for Global Health will organize disease-specific meetings to identify gaps in expertise and intellectual property that exist in product development for the neglected diseases. BVGH will then help global health researchers work with industry to fill these gaps so that resources made available by companies will be used to create medicines for neglected diseases faster and more efficiently.

“We want to be a company that is truly a partner in addressing the health care challenges in the world’s poorest countries — no matter how difficult they are,” says GlaxoSmithKline CEO Andrew Witty.

Alnylam CEO John Maraganore adds: “We are delighted that BIO Ventures has agreed to serve as administrator for this critical initiative. The more companies, academic institutions and foundations that join the pool, the more effective it will be, and we are confident that BIO Ventures’ role will help grow participation.”