Japan launches bold effort to fight neglected diseases

Historic agreements announced to screen massive drug compound libraries for new treatments

31 May 2013

The Global Health Innovative Technology Fund (GHIT Fund), a new public-private partnership that’s bringing Japanese research and development (R&D) to the global fight against infectious disease, will announce at the 5th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD V) a series of historic agreements to screen compound libraries at Japanese pharmaceutical companies and research institutes for new treatments for malaria, tuberculosis, and other afflictions that prey mainly on the poorest of the poor.

“These thirteen agreements are just the first of what we expect will be many global health partnerships facilitated and funded by the GHIT Fund that tap into Japan’s enormous capacity for innovation and technology,” said BT Slingsby, MD, PhD, MPH, who serves as CEO and executive director of the GHIT Fund.

The GHIT Fund is a public-private partnership between the government of Japan, a consortium of Japanese pharmaceutical companies (Astellas Pharma Inc.; Daiichi Sankyo Co., Ltd.; Eisai Co., Ltd.; Shionogi & Co., Ltd.; and Takeda Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd.) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Launched with a potential five-year commitment of over US$100 million, the fund is unique in that it involves a consortium of pharmaceutical companies who initiated a partnership with government and civil society to support research and development for neglected diseases.

It also is the first time the Japanese government, a longtime top-funder of international aid, has made a significant commitment to developing new technologies that target diseases that are mainly a burden on poor countries.

The Fund’s inaugural efforts are financing the work of three non-profit product development partnerships (PDPs) to search for new drug candidates in compound libraries maintained by Japanese pharmaceutical companies and research institutes. The PDPs involved in the work are the Global Alliance for TB Drug Development (TB Alliance), the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV), and the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi). 

“MMV congratulates the Japanese government and Japanese pharmaceutical companies for launching this innovative, cross-sectoral initiative to address diseases of the developing world, such as malaria,” said Dr. David Reddy, PhD, CEO of MMV. “Every minute of every day a child in Africa dies from malaria. Working with the GHIT Fund and Japanese organizations will provide MMV access to novel Japanese compounds, expertise and support, which we hope will open the door to new, breakthrough malaria medicines to help stop this unnecessary loss of life.”