Five Japan-based pharma companies have teamed up with the country's government to form a public-private partnership aimed at developing innovative medicines, vaccines and diagnostics for infectious diseases in developing countries.
The Global Health Innovative Technology (GHIT) fund will see Takeda, Astellas, Daiichi-Sankyo, Eisai and Shionogi partner with non-profit Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the government to provide grants for research funding that will help tackle HIV, malaria, tuberculosis and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).
It is the first partnership of its kind to be formed in Japan, and follows similar efforts in Europe, including the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), which involves several major pharma companies working with the European Commission to support research into priority health areas like resistance to antibiotics.
Individual pharma companies, such as GlaxoSmithKline and Lilly, have also set up their own collaborative open innovation programmes, and the launch of the GHIT Fund suggests that this approach to research is now a global movement.
“The key is for our Fund to provide speed and impact through the facilitation and funding of collaborations,” said the GHIT Fund's chair and science adviser to the Japanese government Dr Kiyoshi Kurokawa.
“The launch of the GHIT Fund is the first step toward significant contributions that take into account Japan's growth strategies. All parties involved agree that we will combine our energies to make tangible the kinds of contributions in innovation that Japan is capable of.”
Commenting on its involvement in the fund, Daiichi Sankyo said it was part of its “initiative to improve access to medicine in developing countries”, which includes mobile healthcare field clinics service in India, Cameroon, and Tanzania.
For Astellas, its involvement in the GHIT Fund will build on existing programmes to develop health technologies for NTDs, such as its partnership with Nagasaki University to research drugs for diseases caused by the dengue virus – described by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the fastest spreading vector-borne viral disease.
In its statement, Eisai commented on the benefit the GHIT Fund will have on efforts to increase its global footprint.
It said: “The company considers this commitment as a long-term investment in its future in an increasingly globalised era and as such consistently engages in initiatives focused on overcoming issues related to access to medicines in order to effectively combat infectious diseases, including neglected tropical diseases.”