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Innovative practice

Merck Global Health Institute partners up to accelerate R&D for bacterial infections, schistosomiasis and malaria

Company:

Merck KGaA

What:

Institute setting up partnerships to develop projects for bacterial diseases and malaria present in low- and middle-income countries.

Region:

Global

Aim:

To develop health solutions through R&D, capacity building and access planning focused on controlling and eliminating infectious diseases that severely impact children.

Context:

The institute’s R&D programme focuses on diseases and conditions that are unique or endemic to low- and middle-income countries.

In 2017, Merck KGaA launched Merck Global Health Institute, as part of its new corporate affairs function. The overall mission of this institute is to develop health solutions – through R&D, capacity building and access planning – focused on controlling and eliminating infectious diseases that severely impact children, and to contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. It focuses on developing, producing and distributing new products to address malaria, schistosomiasis and bacterial infections, including antimicrobial-resistant bacteria, in low- and middle-income countries. The scope of disease may expand as the institute grows.

The Merck Global Health Institute is developing new diagnostics for key malaria biomarkers. ©Jutta Reinhard-Rupp / Merck KGaA

How does the institute accelerate R&D for infectious diseases?
To accelerate innovation in R&D, the institute seeks to establish partnerships with a range of public and private partners, such as universities, access-oriented organisations and major funding bodies around the world, including those in low- and middle-income countries. Since April 2017, it has established more than 30 partnerships to develop projects for target diseases. As these diseases are disproportionately present in low- and middle-income countries, the institute also incorporates access plans into each project to address barriers to availability and affordability. These plans include commitments to ensure sufficient supply and low-cost manufacturing processes, meant to reduce overall patient costs, as well as plans to apply for WHO prequalification, among others.

The institute has already begun developing new diagnostic devices for schistosomiasis and has continued to develop a paediatric formulation of praziquantel for the treatment of schistosomiasis. It has also initiated several new projects for malaria including cell-based diagnostic assays to identify sub-clinical levels of Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax biomarkers in potential malaria patients.

What makes this an innovation?
The institute is fully incorporated into Merck KGaA, whose financial support contributes not only to the initiative’s long-term sustainability, but also to the
achievement of its goals. This level of integration makes the initiative unique, as most companies’ global health R&D initiatives operate as separate units that seek external funding.



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