Novartis invests $100mn to research and develop next-generation antimalarials
Novartis has announced its five-year commitment to the fight against malaria in conjunction with the 7th Multilateral Initiative on Malaria Conference and the Malaria Summit of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting.
The company’s $100mn investment to advance research and develop next-generation treatments to combat emerging resistance to artemisinin and other currently used antimalarials, will enable the company to also implement an equitable pricing strategy to maximise patient access in malaria-endemic countries when new treatments arise.
In order to contribute to the World Health Organisation's target of reducing malaria-related child mortality by at least 90% by 2030, Novartis will further help expand access to paediatric antimalarials and implement healthcare system strengthening programmes in four sub-Saharan countries.
"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. This is why we are committing to advance the research and development of next-generation treatments," said Vas Narasimhan, CEO of Novartis. "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."
The R&D investment is meant to advance the Novartis malaria pipeline through 2023 and to complete a comprehensive global clinical trial program for our novel 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 enable patients in malaria-endemic countries to afford these new treatments once they become available, the company will implement an equitable pricing strategy based on socio-economic conditions of different population segments. We plan to do so in consultation with our development and funding partners and other stakeholders.
Despite the tremendous progress made in combating malaria, one child still dies from the disease every two minutes. Novartis aims to contribute to the WHO's target of reducing malaria-related child mortality by at least 90% in 2030.
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In Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo and at least two more countries in sub-Saharan Africa that bear the highest number of malaria-related child deaths, Novartis will work with partners to help expand access to 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.
Novartis has been committed to the fight against malaria for the past two decades, launching 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 850mn treatments, including 350mn paediatric treatments, without profit to malaria-endemic countries.
This new commitment launches at the same time as results from a new research study (Malaria Futures for Africa, MalaFA) across 14 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. In total, 68 African experts from governments, the research community and nongovernmental organisations expressed their views on remaining challenges toward the 2030 global malaria elimination targets.
Global malaria deaths have fallen by more than 60% between 2000 and 2015. Yet respondents fear progress could stall unless national governments provide more funding and international organisations target their support more effectively.
The disease costs the African economy more than $12bn each year and slows the economic growth of countries with high malaria rates by 1.3%, according to the report.
Many experts also voiced concerns that mosquitoes were increasingly resistant to insecticides and that malaria parasites could become resistant to ACTs in the next 15-20 years. Some feared that resistance would spread faster because of expanding trade and travel between Africa and Asia, where the first signs of drug resistance are emerging. Others thought it was just as likely that resistance could emerge independently in Africa.
Respondents expressed widespread support for making better use of the currently available tools, while stressing that more emphasis should be placed on improving the delivery of existing and new interventions to fight malaria - an area currently underfunded.
According to the 2017 World Malaria Report, there were 216mn cases of malaria in 2016, up from 211mn cases in 2015. The number of malaria deaths was 445,000 in 2016 vs. 438,000 in 2015. 90% of malaria cases and over 90% of malaria deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa. Children under five are particularly at risk, and malaria takes the life of a child every two minutes.
Data de-identification - why it matters in healthcare
Large amounts of healthcare data is generated yet goes unused due to privacy concerns. To address this, data privacy firm TripleBlind has created Blind De-identification, a new approach that allows healthcare organisations to use patient data while eliminating the possibility of the user learning anything about the patient’s identity.
We asked Riddhiman Das, co-founder and CEO to tell us more about data de-identification.
Why is data de-identification important in healthcare?
Blind De-identification allows every attribute of any given dataset to be used, even at an individual level, while being compliant to privacy laws, rules, and regulations by default.
Governments around the world are adopting global data privacy and residency laws like GDPR, which prohibit citizens’ personally identifiable information data from leaving the borders of the country. While great for data protection, data residency laws result in global silos of inaccessible data. TripleBlind allows computations to be done on enterprise-wise global data, while enforcing data residency regulations.
In the US, HIPAA compliance has relied on what is called the Safe Harbor method, which requires removing 18 types of personal patient identifiers like names, email addresses, and medical record numbers. The Safe Harbor method can be too restrictive with the data or can leave too many indirect identifiers, which puts the patient data security at risk. Getting de-identification wrong could make an organisation liable for a costly mistake.
What does TripleBlind's solution do?
With TripleBlind, data is legally de-identified in real time with practically 0% probability of re-identification. Our solution allows analytics on data containing personally identifiable information and protected health information with zero possibility of re-identifying an individual from the dataset. This allows healthcare organisations to access more meaningful data, creating more accurate and less biased results.
For example, a healthcare drug researcher in a rural, predominantly white area, would only have patient data that would reflect their local population. With TripleBlind’s de-identification, they could more easily leverage third-party data from another healthcare facility in a more diverse region, creating a more complete data set that more accurately reflects the larger population. This has the possibility to create more accurate diagnoses and better drug results for more diverse populations.
How can healthcare organisations use this in practice?
TripleBlind is blind to all data and algorithms. That means we never take possession of customer data. We only route traffic between entities, enforce permissions, and provide audit trails. The enterprise’s data remains under their control. TripleBlind does not host, copy or control their data, algorithms or other information assets, ever.
We facilitate a connection to an encrypted version of their information assets. Our technology allows the algorithms and data to interact in an encrypted space that only exists for the duration of the operation. Organisations use their existing infrastructure, so it’s not hardware dependent.