Open Source for Malaria Drug Development

Malaria Journal has launched a new series on malaria elimination in which the Journal’s editorial notes that, “The challenges remain formidable, but efforts must focus at all levels from developing better tools to how existing and future tools can be strategically combined for maximum synergistic effectiveness when integrated into different health and social systems prevailing in endemic areas.”

dscn7285sm.JPGGlaxoSmithKline (GSK)yesterday annnounced one way to help develop better malaria control tools. At the Council on Foreign Relations Andrew Witty announced the ‘open innovation’ strategy focusing on neglected diseases and malaria and explained that …

we have spent the last 12 months screening two million molecules in our compound library for reactions to the malaria parasite P. falciparum, the deadliest form of malaria found primarily in sub-Saharan Africa. This exercise has yielded more than 13,500 ‘hits’ that inhibited the parasite.

Apparently GSK itself has 5 or 6 in advanced phases of development. With this open sourcing, researchers, NGOs, governments and manufacturers in endemic countries can continue the work of drug development on the many other open source chemicals.  For HIV drugs GSK already has local manufacturers producing its products without charging royalties.

These activities build on GSK’s commitment, announced in February 2009, “to searching for new treatments for many of the diseases that affect millions of people in some of the world’s least well off nations. We have a heritage and expertise in researching and developing new medicines and vaccines, and we are directing our scientific resources into this important area.”

Hopefully such openness will spur local and appropriate solutions to disease control. Andrew Witty also encouraged other pharmaceutical companies to join in this process. With the early signs of artemisinin resistance on the horizon, new malaria drug research and development will always be needed until eradication is finally certified in the future.

PS – GSK contributes Albendazole for free to compliment donations of Mectizan by Merck for the lymphatic filariasis elimination program.

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