BioVentures for Global Health: at a Critical Juncture?

Bioventures for Global Health (BVGH, http://www.bvgh.org/default.asp) is a spin-out organization of the biotech/pharm industry powerhouse lobbying group, Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), that is well-respected for its advocacy for involving for biotech companies in addressing global health issues.  Now, more than four years after its founding, BVGH may be re-assessing its mission, structure, methods, and goals.  While I have no special insight into the organization, I note that Chris Earl, who directed BVGH for several years, resigned in June, several staff have left, Carl Feldbaum has replaced Ron Chess as board chairperson (http://www.bvgh.org/news/news/BVGHAnnouncesNewBoardChair.asp), and there seems to be an interest in moving beyond being grant-supported.

Up through 2008, BVGH made a number of significant contributions:

  • -helped advocate and get put into law the FDA’s priority voucher route which enables companies that get approvals for drugs for neglected disease receive a voucher for an accelerated review on another product (the drawback is the companies best positioned to take advantage of this route are big pharma; see http://invivoblog.blogspot.com/2009/04/novartis-is-fdas-first-priority.html);
  • -wrote and updated a substantial “primer” on the infectious diseases of global health;
  • -organized the Partnering for Global Health Forum, March 10-12, 2008, that brought together reps from NGOs, foundations, advocacy groups (there seem to be a lot of these), and a handful of companies;
  • -sponsored several useful reports (one not-so-useful, see my commentary); and
  • -created an on-line database to track neglected disease development (but hasn’t kept it up-to-date).

In my experience, progress requires the investment of money and knowledge, so my modest suggestion for BVGH’s next direction is that it concentrates on generating and connecting new sources of funding to the subset of those 1400+ cash-strapped and possibly soon-to-be-defunct biotech companies with global health interests.  Here are four ideas I think bear investigation by BVGH’s next director:

  • -advocacy for the creation of an SBIR program specific to the development of products for neglected disease or requiring the NIHs to allocate some of their SBIR set side to this area;
  • -advocacy for a change the R and D tax credits to favor R and D for neglected diseases;
  • -partnering with the not-for-profit product development partnerships (PDPs) to offer a resource database for companies seeking drug development guidance especially design, funding, and initiation of clinical trials; and
  • -organizing another partnering forum but convince companies it would be worth attending by bringing in recognized investors (Foundations?  Angels?  Social venture funds?).

I’m looking forward to seeing the next phase for BVGH.

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