Pharmaceutical Companies Should Partner With Gates Foundation on Development of HIV/AIDS Vaccine, Report Says
Pharmaceutical companies "need to develop an explicit strategy" to collaborate with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on global health problems, such as the research and development of an HIV/AIDS vaccine, according to a report released on Tuesday by the pharmaceutical information group IMS Health, Reuters UK reports (Hirschler, Reuters UK, 4/17). The Gates Foundation in July 2006 announced 16 grants totaling $287 million to fund the development of an HIV vaccine. The grants will be distributed during a five-year period to 16 scientific teams in 19 countries. The grants aim to create an international network to find a vaccine by pooling resources and fostering collaboration on efforts worldwide. Under the grant agreements, the 165 researchers receiving funding will be required to collaborate and share the results of their research. In addition, the researchers may patent their findings as long as they make their vaccines available at low costs to people in developing countries. The funding brings the foundation's donations to HIV vaccine efforts to $528 million (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/20/06). The new network, called the Collaboration for AIDS Vaccine Discovery, might need to use patented compounds still under development at pharmaceutical and biotech firms, according to the annual IMS Intelligence.360 report. Such actions might "raise fresh debate" over ethical issues surrounding patents for HIV/AIDS drugs and vaccines, of which there are more than 200 in development, according to Reuters UK. "Whether or not the Gates Foundation effort succeeds, it benefits pharma[ceutical] companies to stay in the game, working synergistically with the [Gates] foundation," IMS said, adding, "The alternative is for pharma to allow itself to be perceived as indifferent to global health concerns -- or to be unseated in the pursuit of advances in world health." According to Reuters UK, pharmaceutical companies "could face mounting pressure" to partner with the Gates Foundation, even if the collaboration "impacts their bottom line" (Reuters UK, 4/17).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.