The Business of Global Health (No. 3)

Thanks to the broad and deep coverage of the biotech and medtech industries by the editors and reporters of the Fierce newsletters, I noted the following recent stories relevant to global health.

Last week an article in Fierce Medical Devices reported that a not-for-profit organization, Engineering World Health (EWH) recently received a $1.5 million grant from the GE Foundation to expand its program of training technicians in the repair of medical devices into Nigeria, in addition to previous GE support (Fiercemedicaldevices article). EWH was started in 2001, became an independent, volunteer organization in 2008, and runs 3-4 year programs in Cambodia, Rwanda, Ghana, and Honduras, with about 50 students enrolled each year. Also two recent studies found marked improvement in equipment “up-time” in the hospitals with EWH-trained technicians and improved technician productivity (another FMD article). It looks to me as if EWH is a good funding and good works opportunity for a medtech company looking to enter developing world markets. It also runs a small product design competition (EWH Competition).

As some readers may remember, I have written about the need and potential for therapeutics to treat Sickle Cell Disease (SCD), especially in Africa where it is a major cofactor in mortality (“Still Neglected”). So I was pleased to learn of another company, Global Blood Therapeutics (GBT) with a promising preclinical SCD drug candidate. San Francisco-based GBT was launched in 2012 with a $41 million Series A funding by Third Rock Ventures, so its likely first market will be the US (about 100,000 patients out of a world total of 15 million).

Also some readers may remember that earlier this year I wrote about Knight Therapeutics receiving FDA approval for a drug that is effective against leishmaniasis, a protozoan infection that occurs annually in about 1.3 million people and causes 20-30,000 deaths (“GUD Knight”). In addition and since the disease is neglected and without any good treatments, Knight also received a Priority Review Voucher, which confers to the holder expedited regulatory review for a product and therefore 6-10 month sooner market access.   Fiercebiotech recently reported Knight is offering the voucher for sale but also that, because the FDA is expediting approvals in other ways, its value is uncertain (Fiercebiotech article). To his credit, Knight’s CEO, Jonathan Goodman, is also quoted as saying the company’s goal (in addition to getting funds) is to “set the bar high to encourage others to invest in R&D for neglected tropical diseases.”

Finally, Fierce also reported that PanVax, a vaccine company “committed to providing both attractive financial returns and social returns,” has expanded its marketing team with the addition of vice presidents for North American and global sales and marketing and five U.S. sales people (another FBT article). This personnel is added to that obtained when the company acquired an approved oral typhoid vaccine last month (“More Bits and Bytes”).



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