Spain becomes a major government funder of MMV

Spain becomes a major government funder of MMV

31 May 2008 - Accra, Ghana. Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) kicks off its 8th Annual Stakeholders’ Meeting in Accra, Ghana today with the exciting announcement of a 3 million Euros grant from the Spanish Government to expand the distribution of affordable drugs and resources and to find new and effective drugs to fight malaria worldwide. The Stakeholders’ Meeting and the annual MMV Access Symposium, which are taking place between 31 May and 2 June, will attract over 150 players from the global and regional malaria community.

According to the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation for Development (AECID), funding MMV for the development and delivery of antimalarial drugs is recognition of MMV’s significant contribution in the global malaria fight and the importance of innovative research to ensure that the world will have the necessary tools to fight and eventually eradicate this scourge.

The Stakeholders’ Meeting will be inaugurated by Major Courage E.K. Quashigah, the Honourable Minister of Health of Ghana and a keynote speech will be given by Joaquim Alberto Chissano, former President of the Republic of Mozambique and Head, Joaquim Chissano Foundation. President Chissano will preside over the award ceremony and present the winners of the MMV Project of the Year Award (2007) and the first-ever MMV Malaria Drug Innovation Award. Novartis is being recognized for their exemplary work in the development of Coartem® Dispersible, a new antimalarial especially designed for children that easily disperses in water and has a sweet flavor.

“We are truly honored by this recognition of the innovation of Coartem Dispersible, which will benefit millions of children suffering from malaria,” said Dr Silvio Gabriel, Executive Vice President of Novartis AG and Head of the Novartis Malaria Initiatives. “Last year alone, we provided Coartem without profit for nearly 50 million children, but many millions more remain in need. With our partner MMV, we are committed to bringing high-quality, innovative solutions like Coartem Dispersible to the fight against malaria and to helping save millions more young lives.”

MMV’s annual Project of the Year award goes to the Eskitis Institute of Griffith University in Australia for their innovative use of technology and excellent progress to identify malaria targets from natural products including marine plant life from the Great Barrier Reef. The researchers announced at the meeting that their research has now identified a unique chemical structure that specifically targets the malaria parasite. This class of compound is being moved rapidly forward in the drug development pathway.

“We at the Eskitis Institute feel a tremendous pride in being chosen amongst so many excellent projects for this award,” said Dr Ron Quinn, Head of the Eskitis Institute. “There are enormous untapped resources in our environment - our aim is to use cutting-edge science and technology to uncover those and use them for the benefit of the global community.”

The Access Symposium which opens on the evening of 1 June will be inaugurated with a keynote speech by Dora Akunyili, Director General of Nigeria’s National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control. She will speak on ’Challenges to access to ACTs in Africa: A personal view’. The Access Symposium will focus on ’Expanding Reach of ACTs in the Private Sector: Dialogue with Countries’.

The MMV meetings were preceded by a Drawing Competition for primary school children, an event that has become something of an MMV tradition. Children from schools in Accra came together on 29th of May to draw and paint pictures inspired by the theme of malaria and how it affects their lives. An award ceremony took place on 30 May at the Ghana National Association of Teachers (GNAT) Hall.

“MMV is looking forward to welcoming its stakeholders and supporters to these meetings in Ghana and sharing with them our progress and challenges. We are keen to build our relationship with the Ghanaian Ministry of Health and its National Malaria Control Programme. The more we collaborate to fight malaria, the sooner we can eradicate it,’ said Dr Chris Hentschel, President and CEO of MMV.

About Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV)

About Novartis

Novartis AG (NYSE: NVS) provides healthcare solutions that address the evolving needs of patients and societies. Focused solely on growth areas in healthcare, Novartis offers a diversified portfolio to best meet these needs: innovative medicines, cost-saving generic pharmaceuticals, preventive vaccines and diagnostic tools, and consumer health products. Novartis is the only company with leading positions in these areas. In 2007, the Group’s continuing operations (excluding divestments in 2007) achieved net sales of USD 38.1 billion and net income of USD 6.5 billion. Approximately USD 6.4 billion was invested in R&D activities throughout the Group. Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Novartis Group companies employ approximately 98,200 full-time associates and operate in over 140 countries around the world. For more information, please visit the novartis website.

About the Eskitis Institute

The Eskitis Institute investigates novel drug and cell therapies to target the molecular and cellular mechanisms of human disorders, including neglected diseases. The Institute comprises 120 research and support staff in a new state-of-the-art facility in the Brisbane Innovation Park, adjacent to Griffith University’s Nathan campus. Griffith is an innovative university committed to multidisciplinary teaching and research, and the creation and communication of knowledge. It has five campuses in three cities across the Brisbane-Gold Coast corridor. With more than 37000 students and 3500 staff, it is one of Queensland’s largest universities.

For more information contact:
Jaya Banerji