Malaria causes an estimated 881,000 deaths each year, of which over 90% are in Africa and 85% are children under 5 years of age.
"People are suffering in developing countries and we want to help by sharing resources and boosting research against tropical diseases," said Dr. Rod MacKenzie, senior vice president of Research, Pfizer Global Research & Development. "Although this is early-stage research, which means that effective new treatments may only begin to be developed several years from now, it improves the chances of identifying compounds that may lead to new drugs. We believe public-private research collaborations are vital to tackling health challenges in developing countries, and we are confident our collaboration with MMV will further aid in the search for drugs with the potential to treat malaria."
Under the agreement, scientists in institutes affiliated with MMV will test approximately 200,000 compounds in the Pfizer library against P. falciparum, the parasite that causes acute malaria, including multi-drug resistant strains. In a process called screening, researchers will seek to identify compounds that show initial activity against P. falciparum, and thus might form the basis for novel drug discovery programs to treat malaria. The screening will be undertaken at the Eskitis Institute for Cell and Molecular Therapies at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia.
Building on a strong R&D portfolio, a new business structure to be even closer to the customer, a commitment to meeting the diverse medical needs of the world in an innovative and socially responsible manner, and its decades of philanthropic activities, Pfizer has committed valuable resources to the fight against malaria and is dedicated to closing the malaria treatment gap. Pfizer's existing malaria product portfolio may be augmented with the artemisinin combination therapy Eurartesim* (in collaboration with sigma-tau), which is in late-stage clinical trials. Pfizer also has an ongoing azithromycin/chloroquine clinical program. "We are creating partnerships to improve the quality of healthcare and access to medicines for patients in the developing world," stated Jean-Michel Halfon, president & general manager of Pfizer's Emerging Markets Business Unit. "We cannot solve the problem alone, but are stepping forward to be a part of the solution."
MMV has recently enlarged its mission to include the search for new antimalarial medicines that will contribute to the ultimate eradication of malaria. "This agreement with Pfizer will allow us to identify any promising compounds with antimalarial activity from their unique and extensive library of new chemical entities," said Dr. Chris Hentschel, president and CEO of MMV. "To eradicate malaria the world needs new medicines that will not only treat and cure P. falciparum malaria, but also P. vivax malaria, a rarer form of the disease that is very difficult to cure. In addition, new drugs are needed to tackle emerging resistance, and stop parasite transmission from infected individuals. Having the opportunity to screen a wide array of compounds in the Pfizer library will help MMV build a strong pipeline of potential new antimalarials."
Pfizer Inc: Working together for a healthier world™
Founded in 1849, Pfizer is the world's premier biopharmaceutical company taking new approaches to better health. We discover, develop, manufacture and deliver quality, safe and effective prescription medicines to treat and help prevent disease for both people and animals. We also partner with healthcare providers, governments and local communities around the world to expand access to our medicines and to provide better quality health care and health system support. At Pfizer, more than 80,000 colleagues in more than 90 countries work every day to help people stay happier and healthier longer and to reduce the human and economic burden of disease worldwide.
Pfizer has a 25-year history in fighting malaria that includes four components: a robust portfolio of malaria medicines, a Pfizer-owned manufacturing and distribution facility in Dakar, Senegal which manufactures some of these medicines, investments in R&D to develop needed drugs for pregnant women and infants and the Mobilize Against Malaria philanthropy initiative where Pfizer is working with a number of partners to help close gaps in malaria treatment and education in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2008, Pfizer manufactured and shipped over five million malaria treatments from its Dakar warehouse and plant for distribution throughout Sub-Saharan Africa.
About Medicines for Malaria Venture
Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) was established in 1999 as a not-for-profit organization created to discover, develop and deliver safe, effective and affordable antimalarial drugs through effective public-private partnerships. MMV's vision is a world in which affordable and effective medicines will cure and protect the millions at risk of malaria and help to ultimately eradicate this terrible disease.
MMV is currently managing the largest-ever portfolio of antimalarial projects in collaboration with over 100 pharmaceutical, academic, and endemic-country partners in 38 countries. Its robust portfolio of around 50 projects includes 19 completely new classes of compounds in the discovery phase. In early 2009, MMV launched its first co-sponsored product - Coartem Dispersible a unique, child-friendly, sweet-tasting, dispersible formulation of the parent drug Coartem®. Two other artemisinin combination therapies in late-stage clinical development with partners will be registered by stringent regulatory authorities and are expected to gain market authorization by 2010.
*Eurartesim was developed as a joint project between sigma-tau and MMV.