Multinational pharmaceutical company, Novartis has announced that over the next five years they will invest more than USD 100 million to advance research and development of next-generation treatments to combat emerging resistance to artemisinin and other currently used antimalarials.

This was announced in conjunction with the 7th Multilateral Initiative on Malaria Conference and the Malaria Summit of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting.

Novartis also announced that they will implement an equitable pricing strategy to maximise patient access in malaria-endemic countries when these new treatments become available.

“Resistance to treatment presents the biggest threat to the incredible progress that has been made in the fight against malaria in the past 20 years. We cannot afford to wait; this is why we are committing to advance the research and development of next-generation treatments,” said CEO of Novartis, Vas Narasimhan.

“At the same time, we need to work to ensure that our innovation reaches those most in need, even those in the most remote locations,” continued Narasimhan.

According to Novartis, the R&D investment is meant to advance the Novartis malaria pipeline through 2023 and to complete a comprehensive global clinical trial programme for their antimalarial drug candidates KAF156 and KAE609 (currently in Phase IIb and Phase IIa respectively). Both are from new classes of medicines that were selected for their ability to treat malaria in different ways from current therapies.

The investment also includes new uses of technology to identify areas where the malaria burden is greatest. This information could then be used to support capability- and capacity-building to establish future clinical trial sites, so the medicines can be evaluated in the populations where they are most needed.

In order to contribute to the WHO’s target of reducing malaria-related child mortality by at least 90% by 2030, Novartis will also further help expand access to paediatric antimalarials and implement healthcare system strengthening programmes in four sub-Saharan countries, including Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“We plan to work with partners to help expand access to our paediatric artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) and drive integrated community case management (iCCM) initiatives. iCCM is recognised as a key strategy for increasing access to essential treatments and reducing child mortality from treatable conditions, such as malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea,” said Narasimhan.

Novartis launched the first fixed-dose ACT in 1999 and the first dispersible paediatric ACT developed in partnership with Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) in 2009. To date, working with partners, the company has delivered more than 850 million treatments, including 350 million paediatric treatments, without profit to malaria-endemic countries.

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