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A roundup of developments in global health and sustainability from the bio/pharmaceutical industry, its suppliers, and other public and private organizations.
Eli Lilly reports that applications for the 2014–2015 school year are now available for the Sixteenth Annual Lilly Reintegration Scholarship. Since its inception, the program has directed more than four million dollars in tuition, books, and laboratory fees to hundreds of colleges, trade, and vocational schools and high school equivalency programs across the United States to fund educational pursuits of students living with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or schizo-affective disorder. This year the program expands to include the diagnosis of major depressive disorder.
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) have launched a new joint initiative to make vaccines more resistant to heat, thus reducing the need for refrigeration. GSK and BMGF will invest a combined $1.8 million in early-stage research into vaccine thermostability. Details of the Vaccine Discovery Partnership (VxDP), under which this initiative falls, were introduced at the Foundation’s Grand Challenges Meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In one of the first projects to start under this initiative, GSK researchers will explore how to make adjuvants more heat stable. This project will focus initially on the adjuvant AS01, which is used in GSK’s RTS,S malaria vaccine candidate, currently in late-stage development in partnership with the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative. RTS,S has been designed for use in infants and children from sub-Saharan Africa, where maintaining vaccines at an optimum temperature can be challenging. Developing a method of making AS01 more heat stable could bring a significant public health benefit. The results could also have broader applications for all other AS01-containing vaccines, including vaccines in development by GSK against HIV and tuberculosis.
In other news, GSK reported results from a large-scale Phase III trial for its malaria vaccine candidate, RTS,S, which is designed to protect young children and infants from clinical malaria up to 18 months after vaccination. Based on these data, GSK now intends to submit, in 2014, a regulatory application to the European Medicines Agency. The World Health Organization has indicated that a policy recommendation for the RTS,S malaria vaccine candidate is possible as early as 2015 if it is granted a positive scientific opinion by EMA.
In other news, GSK has formed a new collaboration with the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) to create a new Center of Excellence for Sustainable Chemistry in Brazil. The agreement emerged from a meeting with Rogerio Ribeiro, senior vice-president, Emerging Markets & Asia Pacific, GSK, and Geraldo Alckmin, Governor of São Paulo State, and Celso Lafer, president of FAFESP. The center is part of a larger goal by GSK to be carbon neutral by 2050. The center will be located in the state of São Paulo and will focus on sustainable chemistries most relevant to the discovery and development of medicines. GSK has agreed in principle to cofund the center with FAPESP, investing approximately £400,000 (640,000) per year during a 10-year collaboration that will be matched by FAPESP. GSK is already supporting a Center of Excellence for Sustainable Chemistry in the UK based at the University of Nottingham. Once the new center in São Paulo is established, it will form scientific links with GSK and the University of Nottingham to facilitate the sharing of knowledge and expertise between Brazilian and UK researchers. Through the collaboration, the new center in Brazil will take a multidisciplinary approach to exploring all aspects of more sustainable chemistry, including improving synthetic efficiency, sustainable solvents, and renewable feedstocks from agricultural waste. The project work seeks to develops alternatives for processes and reagents used in the pharmaceutical industry that will allow the company to embed new sustainable chemistries within GSK and directly contribute to its carbon-neutral goals.
Novartis and Malaria No More announced the debut of the Power of One campaign, which is designed to encourage people around the world to help end child deaths from malaria. Novartis will support the campaign financially and donate up to three million Coartem (artemether lumefantrine) dispersible treatments to match antimalarials funded by the public. It is estimated that over 300 million additional treatments will be needed to treat malaria patients across Africa between now and the end of 2015.
The Power of One campaign aims to address this treatment gap through direct donations and existing government commitments. Every dollar donated to the campaign will buy and deliver a treatment to a child diagnosed with malaria. Novartis is the exclusive treatment sponsor of the Power of One campaign, joining other innovative companies. Additional sponsors include Alere Inc., which will provide malaria rapid diagnostic tests, 21st Century Fox, AHAlife.com, Causes.com, Time Warner, Twitter, Venmo and others. Zambia will be the first country to receive deliveries of treatments and tests as a result of the Power of One campaign.
Former US President Jimmy Carter joined Pfizer to commemorate the fifteenth anniversary of the International Trachoma Initiative (ITI), an independent, not-for-profit program dedicated to the elimination of blinding trachoma as a public health concern. Trachoma is an infectious eye disease that is a leading cause of blindness in the developing world. Pfizer has provided hundreds of millions of doses of the antibiotic Zithromax (azithromycin) to help the global campaign wipe out blinding trachoma by the year 2020. Pfizer, through the ITI, has donated more than 340 million doses of the antibiotic to date to prevent and treat trachoma in support of the World Health Organization(WHO)-led Global Alliance for the Elimination of Trachoma by the year 2020. ITI has managed the distribution of the antibiotic to 28 countries in Africa and Asia since 1998. Approximately 320 million people worldwide are at risk for contracting trachoma, with about 7 million suffering from the advanced, blinding stage of the disease.
On Nov. 10, 2013, the 100 millionth Carter Center-assisted dose of Zithromax is expected to be distributed in the Amhara Region, Ethiopia, during a celebration with the Ethiopian government, Pfizer, ITI, the Lions Clubs International Foundation, Lions of Ethiopia, and other partners. The Amhara Region is thought to be the most trachoma-endemic area in the world, and the partners are working to demonstrate that blinding trachoma can be eliminated from a highly endemic country. The Carter Center, together with the Ministry of Health and other partners in Ethiopia, has helped demonstrate that community-directed infrastructures for preventing trachoma can mobilize millions of people to accept treatment and adopt behavior changes to improve their own lives, even in remote areas where there is limited access to basic medical care, water, and sanitation. The international trachoma campaign uses the SAFE strategy, approved by the WHO, to prevent and treat trachoma. SAFE stands for: Surgery to prevent blindness; Antibiotics to treat active infections; Facial cleanliness; and Environmental improvements, such as latrines to reduce the breeding grounds of flies that help spread the disease. Using these interventions, Ghana, Morocco, Oman, Vietnam, Iran, and The Gambia have all achieved great success against this debilitating infection. Mali, Niger, and Sudan also are on track to make significant inroads in their fight against blinding trachoma by 2015.
Grantmakers In Aging (GIA), a national association of funders, and the Pfizer Foundation have announced a second year of funding totaling $1.3 million for Community AGEnda, an initiative aimed at helping American communities become more age-friendly, meaning great places to grow up and grow old. The award will support grants up to $140,000 from GIA to each of the five participating Community AGEnda communities, in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, and greater Kansas City. Funding for Community AGEnda is provided to GIA by the Pfizer Foundation.
For the fifth consecutive year, Roche has been recognized by the Dow Jones Sustainability Index as the Group Leader in sustainability within the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and life-sciences Industry, based on an analysis of economic, social, and environmental performance. This year’s DJSI assessment emphasized a number of Roche’s efforts, such as how the company manages innovation, especially the development of new medical products that create value, management of the supply chain, and engagement with stakeholders. Roche’s programs on managing talent and developing future leaders received the highest points, as did customer relationship management. Roche also scored highly in the areas of marketing practices, human rights, environmental reporting and its contribution to improve health outcomes. In 2009 Roche introduced a number of five-year corporate goals, using key performance indicators to measure progress. Among these, Roche introduced a diversity objective to increase the percentage of women in key positions by at least 50% as well as an energy-efficiency goal of reducing energy consumption and increasing energy efficiency by 10% by the end of 2014. Roche is well on track with these and other goals.
Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines division of Sanofi has formed a partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to explore and develop new platforms and methods intended to accelerate vaccine R&D, particularly in areas of global health. The announcement was made at the Grand Challenges in Global Health meeting in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil during a session focused on affordable technologies for the developing world. The Vaccine Discovery Partnership (VxDP) is a newly created, formal mechanism by which the Gates Foundation can directly collaborate with Sanofi Pasteur and other vaccine and pharmaceutical companies across disease areas of interest.It provides an integrated, straightforward and sustained relationship based on a memorandum of understanding (MOU). Sanofi Pasteur has already been working with the Gates Foundation on other projects such as HIV vaccine development and distributing inactivated (as opposed to oral) polio vaccines globally to eradicate the disease.