Developing answers for developing nations

Five Japanese pharmas form public-private partnership with their government to help developing countries fight infectious diseases

Jeffrey Bouley
TOKYO—Early April saw the announcement that five Japan-basedpharmaceutical companies are forming a public-private partnership to helpdeveloping countries fight infectious diseases. Called the Global HealthInnovative Technology (GHIT), the fund will be composed of Astellas Pharma Inc.,Daiichi-Sankyo Co. Ltd., Eisai Co. Ltd., Shionogi & Co. Ltd. and TakedaPharmaceutical Co. Ltd.—plus the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and theJapanese government—who have pledged to develop therapeutic medicines, vaccinesand diagnostics for these countries.
 
 
The partners say that this partnership is the first of itskind in Japan and "will follow the model that has become the trend now inglobal medicine research." They note that some groups have formed in Europe todo similar work, such as the Innovative Medicines Initiative that supportsresearch into specific priority health areas like resistance to antibiotics.GHIT will provide funding for research into HIV, malaria, tuberculosis andneglected tropical diseases (NTDs).
 
 
The priority is "to provide fast and impactful research withthe spirit of collaboration," according to Dr. Kiyoshi Kurokawa, scienceadviser to the Japanese government and the GHIT Fund chair. "The launch of theGHIT Fund is the first step toward significant contributions that take intoaccount Japan's growth strategies," he adds. "All parties involved agree thatwe will combine our energies to make tangible the kinds of contributions ininnovation that Japan is capable of."
 
 
The GHIT Fund aims to reinforce Japan's contribution toglobal health by developing new health technologies, utilizing the highlydeveloped science and technology capacity found at the country's pharmaceuticalcompanies, universities and research institutions, noted Takeda in a statementabout its involvement in GHIT. "In providing grants for promising research, theGHIT Fund will help bridge the gap between basic research and clinicalstudies," the company said, "allowing for unprecedented medicines, vaccines anddiagnostics."
 
 
For its part, Eisai reports that it is "committed tocontributing to the improvement of public healthcare for peoples in emergingcountries and the developing world and the expansion of economic development,the middle class and other factors that may benefit those regions." The companyconsiders this commitment as a long-term investment in its future in anincreasingly globalized era to effectively combat infectious diseases,including NTDs. Eisai expects the establishment of the GHIT Fund to lead tofurther global public-private partnerships focused on the development of newdrugs and contribute to global health through advances made in new healthtechnologies in Japan.
 
 
Eisai has also noted that it is also a signatory to theLondon Declaration, which is reportedly the largest global public-privatepartnership to date and aims to eliminate 10 NTDs by 2020. As part of itscommitment under the declaration, Eisai has agreed to produce at its VizagPlant in India 2.2 billion tablets of the lymphatic filariasis medicinediethylcarbamazine and supply them to the World Health Organization at no cost.Furthermore, the company is moving ahead with new drug development projectstargeting malaria and NTDs such as Chagas disease and leishmaniasis, based onpartnerships with international non-profit organizations such as the Drugs forNeglected Diseases initiative and Sabin Vaccine Institute as well as Brazil'snational research agency, the FundaÇão Oswaldo Cruz.
 
 
As a company with a global operational presence, DaiichiSankyo notes that it is extending its social contribution activities, such asthe establishment of mobile healthcare field clinics service in India, Cameroonand Tanzania, to developing countries, with the aim of contributing to therealization of the United Nation's global Millennium Development Goals, andDaiichi sees its participation in the GHIT Fund is yet another important partof its initiative to improve access to medicine in developing countries.
 
 
Astellas stresses its commitment as well to accelerate thediscovery of new drugs for patients suffering from NTDs throughout the world,"through our commitment on collaborative drug discovery research projectsespecially for new anti-protozoan or anti-dengue virus drugs, which have beenadvanced with multiple leading research institutes in Japan."
 
 
Finally, Shionogi has been dedicated to providing innovativemedicines for the treatment of infectious diseases, "and will continue to focuson this therapeutic area to offer the greatest possible contribution toimproving the lives of patients suffering from infectious diseases," it says,adding that its participation in the GHIT Fund is also expected to strengthenthe healthcare and the quality of patient treatment in developing countries.
"Shionogi strives constantly to accomplish its mission toprovide innovative medicines to patients all over the world, and the GHIT Fundis a new, and important, element of that overall mission."

Jeffrey Bouley

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