Determined to eradicate a disease that takes the lives of more than one million people worldwide each year, Novartis has announced it will participate in a new public-private partnership which aims to discover more potent drugs to combat malaria.
The Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases (NITD) will focus on the development of a one-dose cure for Plasmodium falciparum, the most dangerous form of malaria, and a curative modality for Plasmodium vivax, the most frequent and widely distributed cause of malaria.
According to estimates, between 300m and 500m new cases of malaria occur each year, 90 per cent of which occur in children in Africa.
Malaria morbidity and mortality rates are rising in developing countries, largely due to the emergence of drug resistant parasites rendering traditional antimalarial drugs, such as chloroquine and sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP) ineffective.
This new partnership will investigate the potential for development of existing compounds that have already shown antimalarial activity, and explore novel compounds.
Resarchers will perform basic and applied drug discovery research, including target identification, development of screening assays, synthesis and the testing of drug candidates.
"NITD brings together the best of industry and academic knowledge along with technology and strong scientific networks," Daniel Vasella, Chairman and CEO of Novartis, said.
"This funding will allow us to utilize these capabilities in the fight against malaria."
Resources will be allocated by the partnership, which includes the Singapore-based NITD, the Wellcome Trust, the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) and Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV).
The NITD, which is expanding its focus on tropical diseases to include malaria as well as dengue fever and tuberculosis, was established in 2003 as a public-private initiative between Novartis and the Singapore Economic Development Board.
"The NITD is an important member of Singapore's rapidly growing biomedical sciences research community," said Philip Yeo, chairman of Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR).
"Singapore is pleased to support this important endeavor to develop better treatments for malaria and advance human healthcare around the world."
In 2005, Novartis delivered nine million treatment courses of the anti-malarial medicine Coartem at cost for public-sector use by patients in malaria-endemic countries.
To meet demand, Novartis and partners on three continents have scaled up manufacturing capacity to make it possible to produce around 70 million treatment courses of Coartem by the end of 2006.