Novartis to invest $250M in tropical disease drug research
- Novartis will spend $250 million to research and develop new treatments for neglected tropical diseases over the next five years, announcing the investment on Wednesday alongside an international meeting.
- The spending is part of Novartis’ endorsement of the Kigali Declaration, a commitment to end neglected tropical diseases that is being announced at a summit in Kigali, Rwanda. The declaration focuses on securing resources to combat diseases like Dengue fever, Chagas disease and leishmaniasis, which predominantly affect people in countries near the equator, particularly those in impoverished communities.
- Unlike other, more common infectious diseases like HIV, tuberculosis or malaria, neglected tropical diseases receive less attention and garner fewer research dollars. Still, a few big pharmaceutical companies like Novartis, Pfizer and GSK do invest in R&D — GSK, for instance, announced Thursday plans to invest $1 billion euros into infectious disease research over the next 10 years.
Novartis has been involved in neglected tropical disease research for at least a decade and has a center that works with nonprofits and other academic partners. The center, called the Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases, focuses in particular on malaria, cryptosporidiosis and a group of diseases caused by parasites known as kinetoplastids.
In the past, Novartis has pledged to donate its leprosy treatments as part of the London Declaration on neglected tropical diseases in 2012 and again in 2015. Three years later, Novartis committed to investing $100 million into researching a malaria treatment.
The bulk of the $250 million pledged Wednesday will go toward antimalarials, specifically three potential drugs that are meant to combat resistance to artemisinin as well as formulations for infants weighing under 11 pounds.
The remaining $100 million will extend research efforts in four diseases: Chagas, Dengue, cryptosporidiosis and leishmaniasis. The Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases will collaborate with the Wellcome Foundation and the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative on treatments for each of them. One drug for leishmaniasis is currently entering Phase 2 testing, while experimental therapies for cryptosporidiosis and Dengue are in Phase 1 clinical trials.
GSK’s investment, meanwhile, was also announced alongside the Kigali summit. The money will go more broadly toward research into infectious diseases that predominantly affect low-income countries. The British drugmaker is setting up a ”Global Health Unit” to coordinate its work.
GSK also reaffirmed donations of albendazole, a treatment for lymphatic filariasis, and its vaccine adjuvant for use in malaria shots.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include mention of GSK’s investment.
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