Novartis heads up new malaria drug research partnership

Novartis today announced a new public-private partnership with three other organizations to the support development of a "next generation" of malaria drugs. The partnership between the Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases (NITD), the Wellcome Trust, the Singapore Economic Development Board (SEDB) and Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) aims to develop a one-dose cure for plasmodium falciparum, the most dangerous form of malaria and a curative treatment for plasmodium vivax, the most frequent and widely distributed cause of malaria. Approximately $20 million in funding has already been granted from the Wellcome Trust, the EDB and MMV. The NITD will manage the program and conduct research jointly with several institutions including the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation and the Swiss Tropical Institute. “With 250 million people infected worldwide and more than one million deaths each year, malaria is one of the most pressing global issues,” said Novartis CEO Daniel Vasella. “This partnership will greatly increase our ability to fight the disease.” Novartis is the developer of anti-malaria treatment Coartem, which treats the most dangerous form of the disease. Last year, Novartis delivered nine million treatment courses at cost for public-sector use by patients in malaria-endemic countries. To meet demand, Novartis and partners have scaled up manufacturing capacity to make it possible to produce around 70 million treatment courses of Coartem by the end of 2006.