The Business of Global Health No. 20

TB Dx  Unlike Ebola, tuberculosis is highly contagious, kills a million or so people annually, is global in occurrence, and is treatable by drugs but like Ebola, effective containment requires early-stage diagnosis, especially during the disease’s latent, but contagious, phase. A simple point-of-care test is needed to replace the current, and often inaccurate, lab test, and last week, Myriad Genetics announced that it and entered into a collaboration to adapt one of its diagnostic platforms for TB diagnosis (press release in FierceDiagnostics). The collaboration is with the Institut Pasteur and the South African Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative and will test Myriad’s TruCulture® system in differentiating patients with active and latent tuberculosis. The program is funded through a grant to the Pasteur from the Gates Foundation that has supported other TB diagnostics product development, e.g., by Alere and Cepheid (see my post,  “On the Drawing Board,”

More EU Grants for Ebola Product Development  The European Commission recently announced the award of €215 million ($245 million) in grants to eight public-private partnerships for vaccine and diagnostics development (three each), vaccine manufacture, and vaccine compliance (press release in FierceDiagnostics and Project List). This amount is in addition to the €24.4 million already committed by the Commission to Ebola drug development.

International Pharma Business   Lexington, MA-based Curis and Aurigene Discovery Technologies, one of India’s biggest biotechs, announced an intercontinental collaboration to develop immuno-oncology drugs. Aurigene will conduct all preclinical work, and Curis will conduct clinical and commercial development and expects to file INDs on the first two compounds in this year. Curis must like the look of the current and future, potential candidates. The company is granting Aurigene 20% of its stock, worth about $24 million, and will pay up about $50 million in milestones and royalties on each successful product (press release in FierceBiotech). As noted in a FierceBiotech article, the $130 billion market projected for immuno-oncology drugs has attracted big pharma interest, with two drugs on the market and more in development.

Gilead Does It Again  Last June Gilead Sciences sublicensed its breakthrough hepatitis C drug, Sovaldi, to eight Indian companies with the intent of creating affordable and accessible generic versions for 91, mostly low-income, countries. This week the company said it is also offering those companies licenses to an improved hep C treatment, a combination drug still in trials that may treat all six genotypes rather than the two treated by Sovaldi (Bloomberg story). While Gilead’s generic licensing program has drawn praise from drug-accessibility advocates, it has also been criticized by them for not including middle income countries that also have large numbers of hep C patients (KEIonline blog).

A New Index  As was reported in a Capital New York article, the Global Health Impact Index is a new effort to rank pharmaceutical companies on the extent to which their drugs treat tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, and malaria. Developed over six years by a team led by Nicole Hassoun, an associate professor of philosophy at Binghamton University, the index uses the need for a drug (measured in Disability Adjusted Life-Years or DALYs), its effectiveness, and its accessibility to rank a drug’s manufacturer. While to me the Index reinforces the clear need for more companies to develop more drugs for these three diseases (and for more countries to improve their use of existing drugs), it doesn’t say anything about which companies are spending what amounts on new treatments, i.e., investing in global health. For that, see the Access to Medicines Index.



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