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[e-drug] non-profit pharmaceutical companies

  • Subject: [e-drug] non-profit pharmaceutical companies
  • From: e-drug@usa.healthnet.org
  • Date: Wed, 4 Sep 2002 07:22:35 -0400 (EDT)

E-DRUG: non-profit pharmaceutical companies
[A non-profit pharmaceutical company? Could a group of dedicated scientists
with some financial backing from donors do better than commercial drug
companies? It is an interesting question, which might be followed with
argus eyes by commercial drug companies.
It is, however, a very needed initiative, as commercial drug companies
suffers from "market failure" to find new drugs for poor populations who
cannot buy their products.
MSF has been trying to set up the "Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative"
since its March 2002 meeting in New York. Any info on that initiative?
Anyway, good luck to the "Institute for One-World Health" venture mentioned
Crossposted with thanks from DRUGINFO; Sourced through id21HealthNews;
copied as fair use. WB]

Drug firm seeks cures over cash
S.F. nonprofit wants to help poor nations

David Perlman, Chronicle Science Editor   Monday, August 19, 2002

 In a world of giant drug companies driven by profit goals, a 41-year- old
Francisco scientist has charted a different course, creating the first
nonprofit pharmaceutical firm to battle the most deadly parasitic diseases
tropical nations.

Armed with almost $4.7 million in grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates
Foundation, Dr. Victoria Hale, a pharmacologist, and her new Institute for
OneWorld Health are leading the development, testing and manufacture of new
drugs that once languished in the laboratories of commercial firms but are
headed for clinical trials against killers that threaten millions in Asia
Latin America.

A nonprofit pharmaceutical firm may seem an oxymoron doomed to fail, but
industry experts say Hale may be onto something.

Edward Penhoet, former chief executive of Chiron Corp., the pioneering
Emeryville pharmaceutical firm, said Hale's institute should fill a "huge
in bringing badly needed drugs to market for the majority of diseases that
afflict the undeveloped world."

"I'm a convert to the enterprise because it's not in the economic interests
the largest drug and biotech companies to do it," he said.

Eric Gordon, a veteran of 20 years as a research executive at giant
Myers Squibb Co., called Hale's venture "a brilliantly innovative idea
time has long since come."

The international drug companies, Gordon suggested, should prove more than
willing to support Hale's venture by turning over promising research
that could produce drugs but lack significant profit potential.

Hale clearly understands that drug companies must help the venture.

"They have the best drug candidates on their shelves," she said.


Most of the new Gates grant, which was announced last week, will enable
company to begin final clinical trials of a powerful drug against the
form of leishmaniasis -- also known as kala azar, or "black fever" in
Hindi --
which infects 500,000 people and kills 60,000 each year in India,
Nepal, Sudan and Brazil.

The rest of the Gates money is earmarked for development and, if all goes
human trials of a new drug therapy against Chagas disease, which afflicts
million to 18 million people and kills 50,000 yearly throughout Latin

In the future, Hale says, her company plans similar attacks against a host
parasitic diseases. They are all little known in the Western industrial
but exact a horrific death toll in poverty-stricken areas that lack
sanitation, medical care and clean water.

"We're a team of pharmaceutical scientists who've come together to move
forward that would never otherwise reach the market," Hale said in an
from her vacation home at Lake Tahoe. "And we have no stockholders."

Hale said her new company will build no laboratories or factories and have
sales force. But it already has entered into unique partnerships with the
Health Organization and other international nonprofit groups to develop and
test versions of the drugs that can meet the strictest rules for safety and

Ultimately, the institute plans to contract with commercial drug firms for
large-scale production and distribution in countries where the diseases are
most widespread. Contracts will require those firms to sell the drugs in
tiered" pricing schedules -- cheapest for public health agencies and at
rates for commercial pharmacies.

An early version of an injectable drug to combat kala azar, for example,
developed by an Italian pharmaceutical company that ultimately became part
the global drug giant Pharmacia Corp., with headquarters in New Jersey. The
drug is called paromomycin, and when Pharmacia decided not to push further
development and its patent expired, the company turned over all information
it to the World Health Organization, Hale said.

That was 14 years ago. When the World Health Organization ran out of
development funds after sponsoring early clinical trials, Hale made a deal
her company to lead the final Phase III trials, which are about to begin in
India. Private physicians are enrolling hundreds of patients in Bihar
where the death toll from kala azar is highest.

When India's drug regulators approve the antibiotic's safety and
Hale said, her institute will contract with a major Indian drug firm to
the medicine within the next three years, pricing it in two tiers.

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