Malaria is the world’s most serious parasite-borne disease. Each year, some 300 to 500 million people in tropical and subtropical regions are affected by the disease, and 1 million of these – 85% of whom are children under the age of five – die from it. Combating malaria is one of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Increased resistance to existing anti-malarial drugs has made the need for new drugs urgent. Private industry however has little incentive to pursue research on anti-malarial drugs due to the limited return on investment. The pharmaceutical industry estimates that the R&D costs associated with bringing a new drug to the market can be as high as USD 500-800 million.
Making anti-malarial drugs accessible for the poor
Since 1999, MMV in partnership with more than 140 public and private institutions has developed new anti-malarial drugs that are available and affordable for all. The objective to bring a new drug to the market in 2010 has been beaten: in 2010, MMV brought a new artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) especially for children to the market which is already being used in 32 countries. Two more ACTs are approaching registration phase and further components are in the pipeline.
MMV is supported financially by the SDC as well as by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Bank, and a number of governments in Europe and the Americas.
In this research partnership, MMV is responsible for managing the research portfolio, which includes many promising antimalarial candidate drugs, and for securing the necessary funds for research. The result is lower overall costs. The pharmaceutical industry provided MMV with all of the data and technology that it had gathered up to the point when R&D efforts were shelved. Fair marketing and cooperation with the World Health Organization (WHO) is designed to ensure equitable access to the new anti-malarial drug.
Switzerland’s contribution recognised internationally
In a joint-donor evaluation, in which the SDC participated together with the World Bank and the British and Dutch government development cooperation agencies, the following statement was made about MMV: “MMV is an extremely efficient and successful organisation. Within a very short period, it developed an impressive portfolio of candidate anti-malarial drugs.”
“MMV is a highly efficient and successful organisation. In a very short time, it has managed to build an impressive portfolio of promising anti-malarial compounds. Having surpassed its goals, MMV is currently poised to deliver a steady stream of new anti-malarial drugs in the coming years. MMV now needs to very quickly revise its mandate to include issues of delivery of the new products to children, women and men.”
In the meantime, MMV has commissioned the Boston Consulting Group to work on three key topics: market strategies, access and partnerships. For Switzerland, the following points are worth mentioning:
- Swiss researchers (from the Swiss Tropical Institute and Roche) took part in the project to develop the first new anti-malarial drug that MMV brought to the market in 2010. The research gained international recognition and received research funding from MMV.
- MMV is a Geneva-based organisation. It is able to demonstrate that Switzerland’s contribution to MMV flows entirely back into the Swiss economy in the form of taxes, research contracts and other expenditures (hotel stays, symposiums, personal income tax, salaries, etc.).