Defeat Malaria? Yes We Can….

On December 19, 2008, in global health, malaria, pharmaceuticals, by Karen Grepin

…or so argues Jean Stephenne, president of the biologicals division of GSK, in a recent editorial in the WSJ. His enthusiastic statements come following the publication earlier this month of some really promising results from trials conducted in Africa for a new malaria vaccine developed by GSK-Biologicals in partnership with many global health organizations. I previously reported about these trials…and must admit am still very, very excited that we might actually have a malaria vaccine as early as 2011 – I might still be working on a post-doc or something by then…that is just around the corner in graduate student time.

He asks:

“Why would a company like ours devote 25 years of research and more than $300 million of shareholders’ capital to develop a malaria vaccine? After all, there has never been a vaccine against any parasitic disease. Moreover, this vaccine is only relevant in some of the world’s poorest countries, leaving little opportunity for profit.”

He replies:

“We did it because it was the right thing to do.”

While I do honestly believe him when he says they are doing it because they believe it to be the right thing to do, I kind of wish he had not stopped there. The global market for this vaccine could be enormous, and drugs for global health can be profitable (supposedly, Coartem is now Novartis leading product). Vaccines historically are small market, low profit products, but newer vaccines (think Prevnar and the new vaccines for cervical cancer) are big business, and this vaccine could be too.

I think it would be great if a pharmaceutical company could develop – in partnership with global health actors – a new vaccine, for use almost exclusively in the developing world, and do well with it. Doing good for the world can also be good business. Then everyone would want to get on board.

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1 Response » to “Defeat Malaria? Yes We Can….”

  1. Richard Goodman says:

    Nice, informatrive blog entry. Thankls for your inpuit. Please keep it up so we all can be better informed.

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