New report reveals paucity of government support to neglected disease drug R&D
A new report funded by Wellcome Trust and published mid-September 2005 by the London School of Economics examines the ‘New Landscape of Neglected Disease Drug Development’. The report, led by Dr Mary Moran, states that the landscape has changed dramatically over the last 5 years. In 2004, 63 neglected disease related projects were underway, 75% of which were carried out by Public-Private-Partnerships (PPPs), expecting to deliver 8-9 new drugs in 5 years. These PPPs are largely funded by four philanthropic organisations, while government contributions are a mere 16% (see Figure 2 and table). The report shows that current government thinking focused on “commercialising R&D to bring big companies back into the field” is out of alignment with the reality of the neglected disease drug landscape.

A summary of the report and its recommendations,
“A breakthrough in R&D for neglected diseases:New ways to get the drugs we need”,
European Parliament adopts important resolution on major and neglected diseases

A resolution calling on the EU to give neglected diseases in developing countries a higher priority in its research programme was passed by the European Parliament on 8 September 2005. The resolution was strongly influenced by a report on neglected diseases by John Bowis MEP that highlights the lack of research carried out by the EU into lesser-known diseases such as sleeping sickness and dengue.

The resolution called for the 7th Framework Programme to include specific reference to and funding for research on illnesses that affect citizens of developing countries, and stated that ‘PPPs such as RBM, IAVI, GAVI, MMV, TB Alliance, DNDi, IOWH and TDR are key to innovation and capacity building’. It stressed that the lack of R&D into diseases which almost exclusively affect poor people in developing countries must be corrected by ‘international efforts.’

New tropical disease research centre at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine
A UK research centre specialising in the development of new tropical medicines and disease control will be built in Liverpool with £18 million in public funding from the EU and the UK's North West Development Agency.

More money for neglected diseases

The Wellcome Trust has awarded £8.1m to scientists at Dundee University to develop drugs to tackle tropical diseases. The award is one of the largest of its kind. The six teams of scientists have already begun to assemble a library of 100,000 compounds from which they hope to sift 100 with promising properties. (See interview with Prof Alan Fairlamb).

Which projects have been funded at Dundee University?

“We have a dozen or so well characterised validated targets that are common to the kinetoplastid diseases. These will be prioritised in terms of feasibility and druggability. Many of these targets are in glycosyl-phosphatidylinosityl (GPI) anchor biosynthetic pathway and in trypanothione metabolism. Others may arise from pilot studies that DNDi funded for one year.”
Prof Alan Fairlamb

In the same week the Gates Foundation granted $258m (equivalent to more than 75% of global spending on malaria research 2004) to the Malaria Vaccine Initiative ($107m), Medicines for Malaria Venture ($100m) and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine ($50.7). The money will be used to support the trials of a malaria vaccine, accelerate research on effective low-cost malaria drugs, and improve insecticides, bed-nets and other protective materials.

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