January 20, 2010

Drug Company To Release Chemical Compounds For Malaria Research

A UK newspaper report showed that a British drug maker GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is set to make thousands of chemical compounds that have the potential to cure malaria available for research, AFP reported.

"Multinational drug companies must balance social responsibility with their need to make profits to please shareholders," said GSK chief executive Andrew Witty, during an interview with the Guardian on Wednesday.

He said firms had an imperative to earn the trust of society, not just by meeting expectations but by exceeding them.

The Guardian reported that the company will publish details of 13,500 chemical compounds from its library that have the potential to act against the parasite that causes deadly malaria in sub-Saharan Africa.

Witty is also expected to announce an $8 million fund to pay for scientists to investigate the chemicals, the Guardian said.

Witty said he believes it is a significant contribution to give scientists around the world 13,500 new opportunities to start research.

"It is trying to create a permissiveness around scientific research in an area where we know the marketplace isn't going to stimulate massive research," he added.

But it could be an opportunity to get thousands of researchers involved in the fight against malaria.

A year ago, Witty vowed to put all drugs for neglected diseases in a so-called "patent pool", waiving intellectual property rights so any researcher could examine them, the Guardian reported.

Aid groups Oxfam and Medecins sans Frontieres gave the announcement a cautious welcome.

Dr. Mallika Kaviratne, from the Malaria Consortium, a not-for-profit organization, told BBC News it could boost access to medicines for developing countries, as resistance to existing drugs was an important issue.

"The release of 13,500 molecules made to the public is very important - we have nothing else in the pipeline - and new drugs need to be developed, but they're expensive," she added.


Image Caption: A Plasmodium sporozoite traverses the cytoplasm of a mosquito midgut epithelial cell in this false-color electron micrograph. Credit: Image by Ute Frevert; false color by Margaret Shear


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