Aug
08
2006

Charity brings life-saving drug to market

Sand fly: Black fever vector  photo from Wikipedia
Sand fly: Black fever vector photo from Wikipedia

Small charity to bring life saving drug to market

Black fever, also known as visceral leishmaniasis (VL), is the second-largest parasitic killer in the world (after malaria), responsible for an estimated half-million deaths worldwide. Roughly 90 percent of black fever cases worldwide are found in Bihar State in India and in Bangladesh, Nepal, Sudan and northeastern Brazil. Because these populations are so poor, new drugs are slow to emerge and much of the basic research into potential drug targets takes place in universities, funded by charitable organisations. The Institute for OneWorld Health charity is developing the drug paromomycin, which they claim will be effective and cheap. A treatment with paromomycin will cost about $10. The drug had originally been identified in th 1960's, but had been abandoned because it would not be profitable, as the disease mostly affects poor people.

$10 drug can save your life.

Dr. Hale and her husband, Dr. Ahvie Herskowitz put up $100,000, signed a $315,000 promissory note, used the ground floor of their house as offices, and worked without pay for two years. The idea of a nonprofit drug company struck many as folly when Dr. Victoria Hale, a former Genentech executive and Food and Drug Administration official, founded OneWorld Health in 2001. The Gates foundation, which at the time was primarily underwriting vaccines and other preventive strategies, eventually offered a grant of $4.2 million that grew to $47.2 million for the development of paromomycin. Dr. Hale also got help from others, including the Skoll Foundation, which has provided financing to underwrite salaries for new senior executives. If approval is granted as expected this fall, it will be the first time a charity has succeeded in ushering a drug to market.
Source article from New York Times

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