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Volume 84 Issue 22 | p. 9 | News of The Week
Issue Date: May 29, 2006

World Health

Gates Foundation, Novartis embark on public-private ventures to combat TB and malaria
Department: Science & Technology

Public-private partnerships looking to cure some of the world's most devastating yet often neglected diseases got a shot in the arm last week.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is giving $104 million to the Global Alliance for TB Drug Development, which is trying to find faster and simpler cures for tuberculosis. The grant will help fund a Phase III trial of the alliance's most advanced candidate, the Bayer antibiotic moxifloxacin, as well as enable the development of 10 other potential treatments.

Current TB treatment calls for patients to take an average of 130 doses, each of which entails as many as 11 pills, over the course of six months. That regimen is difficult to maintain and is often too protracted for patients who also have AIDS, says Maria C. Freire, CEO of the TB alliance. Moxifloxacin could cut two months off that treatment time.

The long-term goal is to find novel antibiotics that can work in as few as 10 doses. Freire estimates it will require another $100 million from other sources to reach that goal.

Separately, Novartis is leading an effort to address another major health threat, malaria, as part of a new public-private partnership. The Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases has been granted about $26 million by its partners in the venture, the Wellcome Trust, the Singapore Economic Development Board, and Medicines for Malaria Venture, to develop a one-dose cure for malaria.

The death toll from malaria in developing countries is on the rise as parasites develop resistance to older antimalarial drugs.

 
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