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Feature Neglected Diseases

How collaboration is providing new drugs for neglected diseases

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 05 April 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e2453
  1. Janice Hopkins Tanne, medical journalist
  1. 1New York, USA
  1. janice{at}

Academia, industry, and non-profit bodies are partnering to find new ways of treating neglected diseases, Janice Hopkins Tanne reports

The list of neglected diseases is long. Besides malaria, leishmaniasis, trypanosomiasis, and tuberculosis, there are dozens of other protozoan, viral, fungal, bacterial, helminth, and ectoparasite infections. These diseases affect 1.4 billion of the world’s poorest people, who often live in remote, unstable areas.

But the list of new drugs is short. Between 1975 and 1999, only 16 of 1393 newly marketed drugs were for tropical diseases, said Curtis Chong, a haematology and oncology fellow at Dana Farber and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, speaking at the annual conference on neglected diseases last month in Philadelphia, USA.

A better way is needed: repositioning old drugs for new purposes, discovering new drugs to treat neglected diseases, and developing new vaccines to prevent them. The buzzword is product development partnerships, whereby drug companies work with non-profit organisations and others in drug discovery endeavours.

Not-for-profit organisations and academia are filling the gap between research and industry’s expertise in drug manufacturing and distribution, says Jean-Pierre Paccaud, director of business development at the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative, a non-profit organisation working to develop new treatments for neglected diseases. Philanthropic and public funds can absorb the costs and risks of drug development. Industry can pick up the projects and market and distribute them.

Already 17 drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics have been developed through partnerships between non-profit organisations and the drug industry. Paccaud named as …

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