Novartis yesterday announced the opening of a new research institute in Siena with a nonprofit mission to exclusively focus on the development of vaccines for diseases of the developing world.
The Novartis Vaccines Institute for Global Health (NVGH) is the first institute of its kind to be set up by a major vaccine manufacturer.
All products discovered at NVGH will be introduced first in developing countries. While NVGH will focus on the R&D for vaccines for diseases of the developing world, the Institute will license a third party to develop and distribute the vaccines at an affordable and accessible price to the target populations.
The NVGH's goal is to address the unmet medical need for vaccines for diseases of the developing world by researching vaccines specifically tailored for developing country needs and introducing them first in those countries. The NVGH is a public private partnership and will also collaborate with external organizations to build strength in resources.
Dr Allan Saul, who has nearly 30 years of experience in translational research and development, will head the institute. Dr Saul joined Novartis from the laboratory of Malaria and Vector Research at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the US. He has a strong background in vaccines research and his translational vaccine research experience has lead to numerous candidates taken into full development and testing.
"NVGH reinforces the Novartis commitment to R&D for neglected diseases, and will potentially bring innovative vaccines to the patients who may need it most," said Dr. Daniel Vasella, Chairman and CEO of Novartis. "Novartis will continue to draw on our expertise and the skills of our associates to contribute to sustainable Corporate Citizenship initiatives."
Research activities at NVGH, which will be part of the Novartis overarching Corporate Research programme, will leverage the existing Novartis Vaccines research expertise and innovative technology platforms that add significant value and speed to bringing these vaccines forward.
The institute's location in Siena also enables researchers to utilise the scientific know-how and experience of the existing Novartis vaccines and diagnostics global research centre led by Rino Rappuoli, global head of vaccines research. NVGH projects will be managed separately from the commercial vaccine research projects, with a dedicated team of management, scientists and resources.
"Novartis Vaccines is already on the cutting edge of vaccines research," said Joerg Reinhardt, CEO of Novartis vaccines and diagnostics. "And now the opening of NVGH will allow us to apply our knowledge and expertise of vaccines research to diseases that affect the developing world. This approach will enable NVGH to play a leading role in permanently reducing the burden of neglected diseases rather."
The drug maker said in a statement, "The world faces an urgent need to develop better drugs and vaccines for diseases that are largely confined to developing countries. With one-sixth of the world's population affected by neglected diseases yet the drug and vaccine pipeline for these diseases is almost dry. Currently, only about 10 per cent of the world's medical research is devoted to conditions that account for 90 per cent of the global disease burden.
"NVGH will aim to become a center of excellence for vaccines for neglected diseases," says Paul Herrling, head of corporate research at Novartis. "Novartis has already set-up a similar research institute dedicated to neglected tropical diseases for pharmaceutical drugs, and similarly to that, accessibility to and affordability of NVGH products will be the priority, not commercial value or profit potential."
At present, NVGH is conducting the majority of research activities around conjugate vaccines for enteric diseases. Initial disease areas of focus will be salmonella enterica serovar typhi (S. typhi), salmonella paratyphi A and nontyphoidal salmonellae (NTS), which are important causes of infection and disease in children.
In Africa, multidrug-resistant non-typhoidal salmonella (NTS) is one of the leading causes of morbidity and high mortality in children under five years of age, second in importance only to pneumococcal disease. With more than 4.5 billion cases per year, diarrheal diseases are ubiquitous around the globe.
NVGH is part of the Novartis overall commitment to corporate citizenship, and finding solutions to help close the access gap. While the fundamental aspects of healthcare provision rely on support of governments and inter-governmental agencies, Novartis plays a role whenever possible to improve patient access to our medicines.