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Paris, 10 June 2013
Research: New partnership to fight poverty-related diseases
The European Union and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have today pledged to work together to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other poverty-related diseases that together affect more than 1 billion people worldwide. The agreement, signed in Paris today by foundation co-chair Bill Gates and European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, creates a new strategic partnership for research in the area. Between 2007 and 2011, the foundation and the European Commission have contributed around 2.4 billion euro (3.1 billion USD) to research and development focused on poverty-related infectious diseases, supporting the development of more than 20 new and improved products.
The partnership will invest in research and development of life-saving interventions to improve the health and well-being of people living in developing countries. In addition to accelerating the development of much-needed drugs, vaccines and diagnostics, the two organisations will also seek to improve affordable and sustainable pathways to ensure that these products quickly reach those in greatest need.
Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn said, "Our goal in this new partnership is to work together to develop at least one new and better health product per year. This will represent a big step forward for the millions who suffer from poverty-related diseases."
“With sufficient resources and political commitment, we can together improve the lives of millions before the end of this decade," said Mr. Gates. "The foundation is completely committed to supporting efforts to develop life-saving products to help solve some of the world’s toughest problems. Partnership with the Commission and other funders is critical to the success of our common mission."
The foundation and the EC are planning to launch a joint innovation prize at the 2014 Innovation Convention, to recognise and reward innovations that address challenges in current approaches to global health.
The Commission and the foundation will also jointly fund clinical development of new tools to treat and prevent HIV, tuberculosis, malaria and other neglected infectious diseases such as diarrhoeal diseases, Buruli ulcer, trachoma, lymphatic filariasis and sleeping sickness. Much of this work will be carried out through the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP), a flagship initiative of the European Union, with currently 16 European and 30 sub-Saharan African partner countries involved.
EDCTP will soon enter its second phase, to cover more phases of clinical trials and more disease areas. EDCTP is poised to be a major supporter of product development and capacity building in disease endemic countries. The European Commission has proposed funding of up to 1 billion euro from the EU budget, to match contributions of European partner countries. This partnership can play a key role in providing catalytic funding for late-stage clinical trials to prove the safety and efficacy of breakthrough drugs and vaccines. A typical late-stage trial of a novel intervention can take up to 15 years with a development cost of between 500 to 800 million euro per new candidate drug or vaccine.
Safe, effective and affordable medicines for many poverty-related diseases are still lacking, however, and the socio-economic costs of these diseases restrict the potential for development, in particular in sub-Saharan Africa.
Both parties are currently identifying investment opportunities in promising products and new scientific approaches, combined with the use of efficient investment strategies and flexible funding mechanisms. One key target area will be tuberculosis, where new drugs, vaccines and scientific approaches are needed to tackle this epidemic and counter the emergence of drug-resistant TB strains.
Poverty-related diseases have huge negative impacts on health, society and economic growth in many countries. They particularly affect the world’s poorest and most marginalised communities. More than 1 billion people, including 400 million children, suffer from one or more of the three major poverty-related diseases — HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis — or from neglected infectious diseases, such as Buruli ulcer, trachoma, lymphatic filariasis and sleeping sickness. HIV/AIDS alone kills an estimated 2 million people every year, while malaria and tuberculosis together kill an estimated 2.2 million people.
The fight against major poverty-related diseases is also increasingly turning into a global health problem. Growing global mobility, including tourism and migration, means that any country in the world could face new or returning challenges from infectious diseases. Global warming and the emergence of drug resistances is further changing the prevalence and distribution of these diseases worldwide.
Link to MoU:
European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP):
European Commission - Health Research: