SWITZERLAND –Novartis has said it will invest US$250 million to advance research and development of new treatments to combat neglected tropical diseases and malaria, as part of its commitment over five years (2021-2025).
The pronouncement reaffirms the Swiss-based pharma major’s commitment to long-established efforts to control and eliminate neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), a set of debilitating diseases that put at risk the health of 1.7 billion people around the world, especially the most vulnerable and underserved.
“Today, by endorsing the Kigali Declaration and pledging to invest US$250 million, we aim to accelerate progress toward elimination of these diseases, which continue to cause suffering and stigma for millions of people around the globe,” said Vas Narasimhan, CEO of Novartis.
Novartis’ investment prioritizes malaria, a disease that the company has been working to eradicate for over two decades.
According to the 2021 World Malaria Initiative Report, there were 241 million malaria cases and 627,000 malaria deaths in 2020.
Novartis has pledged to invest US$150 million in malaria research in order to develop three novel drug candidates to combat the emerging resistance to artemisinin.
The company will also continue its efforts to develop an optimized formulation for infants weighing less than 5kg and neonates, for whom no treatment is available.
Today, Coartem, an approved therapy in phase 3 development in babies weighing less than 5 kg with uncomplicated malaria, leads Novartis’ malaria pipeline.
The remaining molecules in the pipeline are INE963, cipargamin, and ganaplacide, which are in phase 1 and 2 trials as treatments for severe and uncomplicated malaria, as well as malaria prophylaxis.
To date, the company has delivered over one billion treatments, including over 450 million pediatric treatments.
US$100 million for NTDs
Part of the investment also includes a US$100 million to advance its neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) research and development program, with a focus on novel drug candidates for four diseases.
Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) are a common problem in tropical areas. They primarily affect impoverished communities and have disastrous economic, health, and social consequences.
The Novartis Institute for Tropical Diseases is collaborating with Wellcome Trust to develop novel anti-parasitic therapies for Chagas disease.
In addition, the company is working with the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative to develop a proteasome inhibitor, LXE408 for the treatment of visceral leishmaniasis.
It will also work on treatments for dengue fever and parasitic diarrhea, which are major causes of death in young children in developing countries.
Novartis was one of the original signatories to the London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) in 2012, pledging to donate multidrug therapy to support global efforts to eradicate leprosy.
Novartis announced this investment when it endorsed the Kigali Declaration on neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), which saw more than US$4 billion pledged toward global efforts to accelerate the fight against malaria and other neglected tropical diseases.
Observers said the fundraising marks a significant breakthrough as malaria is a leading killer in Africa.
The money will come from governments, philanthropists and others in the private sector. In addition, pharmaceutical companies donated 18 billion tablets to prevent and treat those diseases.
Meanwhile, GSK promised US$1 billion over a decade to accelerate research and development dedicated to infectious diseases that disproportionately impact lower-income countries.
The research will focus on new and disruptive vaccines and medicines to prevent and treat malaria, tuberculosis, HIV—through GSK’s ViiV unit—neglected tropical diseases and anti-microbial resistance.