November 01, 2011

Step One

Chief Operating Officer
BIO Ventures for Global Health

Don Joseph is Chief Operating Officer at BIO Ventures for Global Health (BVGH), a GHTC member, and wrote this blog post in conjunction with the launch of WIPO Re:Search, a new consortium where public and private sector organizations share valuable intellectual property (IP) and expertise with the global health research community to promote development of new drugs, vaccines, and diagnostics to treat neglected tropical diseases, malaria, and tuberculosis.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Tom Mboya Okeyo, ambassador from Kenya, recalled the old Chinese proverb in referring to the expensive, risk-filled, and time-consuming process of drug and vaccine development for neglected tropical diseases at last week’s Geneva launch for WIPO Re:Search, a new initiative administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization, or WIPO, and BIO Ventures for Global Health.

WIPO Re:Search is an unprecedented initiative to share knowledge, expertise, and intellectual property. Its mission is simple: to accelerate the development of new drugs, diagnostics, and vaccines for the World Health Organization’s list of neglected tropical diseases, tuberculosis, and malaria by bringing the firepower normally devoted to commercial product research and development to neglected tropical disease research.

The vehicle for doing so is a central database, publicly available and searchable, which describes knowledge, expertise, data, and resources being offered by a wide-ranging list of contributors for royalty-free research. Contributors have committed that any end products resulting will be sold royalty-free to end users in the world’s least developed countries, as defined by the United Nations. From the initial conversations between neglected tropical disease researchers and the contributors of resources, new partnerships—and research projects—are expected to emerge.

Don Joseph of BVGH speaks about the new WIPO Re:Search initiative at a press conference at the UN. This project aims to fight neglected tropical diseases, malaria and tuberculosis by fostering collaboration between public and private sector organizations to promote the development of new drugs, vaccines and diagnostics.

WIPO acts as secretariat of WIPO Re:Search, and BVGH will administer the Partnership Hub, a virtual meeting place where neglected tropical disease researchers can learn more about the knowledge, data, and resources being made available to them by means of a publicly available database (see We at BVGH will answer questions, coordinate communications, and help researchers connect with their counterparts to help find the tools and resources they need to solve neglected tropical disease research problems.

WIPO Re:Search was formed by eight of the world’s leading pharmaceutical or biotech companies (Alnylam, AstraZeneca, Eisai, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Novartis, Pfizer, Sanofi), in collaboration with government organizations (e.g., the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the Indian Medical Research Council, the Medical Research Council of South Africa, the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation of Brazil), non-governmental organizations, and other research institutions. WIPO Re:Search includes not only providers of knowledge assets, but neglected disease research institutions (the Sabin Vaccine Institute, the Center for World Health and Medicine, Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative, and others).

Ambassador Okeyo recalled the Chinese proverb in deference to his fellow panelist, Margaret Chan, Director General of the World Health Organization. Dr. Chan clearly demonstrated her enthusiasm for the project—and her challenge to produce results—to those participating.

The road is a long one, filled with risk, requiring additional resources and significant time and hard work. But the journey toward neglected tropical disease product development just took a significant step forward.

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