[Corrected 2/8/12. See below.] The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has joined with 13 pharmaceutical companies and leading public health organizations as part of a massive $785 million drive to wipe out—or at least better control—10 historically neglected tropical diseases by the end of the decade. [Edited to reflect that the total value of the initiative is $785 million not, as originally reported, $785 million. We apologize for the error.]
The initiative will focus on diseases that affect one out of every five people on Earth (1.4 billion people), but don’t get effectively treated because there isn’t a strong enough market to sell drugs to people who can’t afford them. The Seattle-based Gates Foundation is contributing $363 million over five years for research into the neglected diseases, while other money from groups like the U.S. Agency for International Development and Britain’s Department for International Development will finance better distribution of existing medications that are effective. The initiative was announced today in a press briefing in London.
“It used to be that people would commit to a donation but nobody would order the drug because there wasn’t money to do the delivery,” Bill Gates told Bloomberg News in an interview. “Here, because you’ve got delivery money being committed and manufacturing money being committed, every year the amount of people who get this mass drug administration is going to be 10 times what it’s been.”
GlaxoSmithKline CEO Andrew Witty added in a statement that, “Many companies and organizations have worked for decades to fight these horrific diseases. But no one company or organization can do it alone. Today, we pledge to work hand-in-hand to revolutionize the way we fight these diseases now and in the future.”
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