Mosquitos are on my mind today. Not only am I looking to find a good mosquito trap machine for my backyard before the summer season begins, but I learned that this Saturday, Apr. 25, is World Malaria Day. As most people know, malaria is a deadly mosquito-born disease. According to Roll Back Malaria (RBM), a United Nations initiative, a child dies from malaria every 30 seconds. The disease takes nearly 1 million lives every year and affects nearly 1 billion people in 109 countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has set the end of 2010 as a target to deliver “effective and affordable protection and treatment to all people at risk of malaria.” To achieve this, goals have been set to: deliver more than 700 million insecticide-treated bed nets (half of them to Africa) and 200 million of doses of effective treatment; encourage indoor spraying for approximately 200 million homes annually; and to conduct approximately 1.5 billion diagnostic tests annually, according to RBM. But the world also needs “dramatically expanded access to core antimalaria interventions,” including “effective drugs.”
This is where pharma comes in. In March, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) announced a plan to create a patent pool to encourage development of new drugs for tropical diseases, among them, malaria. The plan is to share more than 800 of its small-molecule patents that focus on 16 neglected tropical diseases that largely occur in least developed countries. Companies can apply to license GSK’s patents and thus, increase the work toward finding treatment and cures.
The company is now moving forward with its commitment. According to GSK’s website, the company has several projects underway at its Tres Cantos, Spain, laboratories “with the aim of developing products that treat resistant strains of the malaria parasite” and is supporting the nonprofit Medicines for Malaria Venture, which is working discover, develop, and deliver new and affordable treatments for malaria.
In addition, GSK Biologicals, along with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, are supporting the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative to conduct clinical trials on a malaria candidate vaccine. “GSK hopes that the candidate vaccine could be submitted for regulatory approval by 2011,” according to the company website.
I think it’s amazing that GSK is doing this—sharing its IP rights and focusing on diseases—and patients—that are so often overlooked. Here’s to rolling back malaria.