At least half of the world’s population still does not have adequate access to health. We are striving to make health solutions affordable and raise awareness of diseases. Our aim is to create a healthier future for all. We use innovation in science and technology to improve the health of underserved populations mainly in low- and middle-income countries. To achieve this, we leverage our expertise from all business sectors and collaborate closely with a wide range of partners. We also participate in industry-wide initiatives to develop new approaches.
Our Global Health strategy
Our Global Health strategy focuses on the elimination of schistosomiasis and malaria as public health problems and the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension in low- and middle-income countries. Our projects and programs are guided by the concept of “shared value”: We create a measurable and sustainable positive impact on society through our products and services. For us, this means developing business models that increase the value and competitiveness of our company by solving unmet health needs and strengthening local health systems.
Our fight against schistosomiasis
Schistosomiasis, a neglected tropical disease (NTD), is one of the most prevalent parasitic infections in Africa, placing a significant burden on public health and the local economy. The disease affects almost 240 million people worldwide, with more than 90% of cases occurring in Africa. An estimated 200,000 people die every year from long-term effects of schistosomiasis, such as liver and kidney infections, bladder cancer, genital schistosomiasis, and anemia. School-aged children are particularly vulnerable to the disease.
Our ultimate aim is to eliminate the disease as a public health problem. To help achieve this goal, we have adopted an integrated schistosomiasis strategy that we are implementing in close collaboration with multiple partners worldwide. This approach focuses on five building blocks: treatment; research and development (R&D); water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH); health education; and advocacy and partnerships.
As part of our longstanding partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO), we are committed to provide up to 250 million praziquantel tablets per year for distribution in endemic countries. To date, our tablets have been distributed in 47 endemic African countries to treat school-aged children. In 2020, we donated around 226 million tablets for distribution in 30 countries, 27 of which are in sub-Saharan Africa. Together with the Global Schistosomiasis Alliance, we held a consultation meeting with experts and stakeholders and provided feedback to WHO ahead of the new NTD Roadmap passed by the World Health Assembly in autumn 2020.
Over time, we have developed a portfolio of R&D projects on schistosomiasis. These include the development of a new pediatric formulation of praziquantel to treat children under the age of six. This project, implemented through a consortium of partners, is in Phase III clinical development to generate data for registration. Other projects include the setup of a platform to identify new drugs to prevent and treat schistosomiasis and the development of highly sensitive diagnostic methods for schistosomiasis and other neglected tropical diseases. In 2020, we entered into a strategic alliance with Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. to develop an artificial intelligence-based diagnostic tool and new technologies for transmission control.
As One Against Malaria
More than 200 million cases of malaria and over 400,000 related deaths are recorded every year, with almost 70% of deaths occurring in children under the age of five. Over 90% of cases and 90% of deaths occur in Africa. Through our As One against Malaria program, we are implementing several initiatives and projects for new treatments, diagnostics, prevention methods, and approaches to strengthen health systems. As part of this integrated program, we are in early clinical development with an innovative drug (M5717) for the prevention and treatment of malaria.
Furthermore, we are working toward making our insect repellent IR3535® available as a malaria prevention method in Africa. We joined forces with our partners in Ghana to implement a new program and test IR3535®, using a new formulation technology for long-lasting efficacy to reduce application times. This insect repellent is already used for protection against the bites of insects and ticks that can transmit diseases such as Lyme, Zika, dengue, and chikungunya.
Addressing affordability challenges
Our proactive approach to intellectual property enables research into solutions to the global health challenges that affect millions in developing low- and middle-income countries. We have adopted a framework of Open Innovation to accelerate research and development into innovative treatments for infectious diseases. We provide free access to our proprietary compound library for drug discovery activities to identify new drugs. We engage non-profit organizations and academia, as well as drive collaborative efforts in line with our mission to improve the health of underserved populations in low- and middle-income countries.
As part of our Open Innovation initiatives, we contribute to WIPO Re:Search, a partnership between the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and BIO Ventures for Global Health (BVGH) that engages private industry to early stage R&D for vaccines, diagnostics, and drugs against neglected tropical diseases (including schistosomiasis), malaria and tuberculosis. We are also a member of the DNDi (Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative) to accelerate research of novel medicines for infectious diseases. This initiative has proved the success of a transformative open innovation model through which participating companies can simultaneously search for new treatments. In addition to our Open Innovation projects, including the new Open Global Health Library, we have adopted a policy to not file or enforce patents in many low- and middle-income countries and use a publicly available database (Pat-Informed) to be transparent about our patents and patent applications.
Promoting accessibility and improving supply chains
Our Access to Health approach aims to address the health system gaps that prevent underserved populations from receiving healthcare. We coordinate with our partners to identify and develop solutions, such as future-oriented access models for both neglected and non-communicable diseases in low- and middle-income countries.
We also promote initiatives to strengthen supply chains and to guarantee the targeted supply of medicines in those countries. For instance, NTDeliver is a digital information tool for improving transparency in medicine donation supply chains created through public-private partnerships. Deliveries from companies running donation programs are clearly tracked – from purchase orders made by the WHO through to delivery to the first warehouse in the destination country. This improves coordination and efficiency and provides a more transparent overview of the in-country inventory. We deploy our NTDeliver tool to monitor the amount of schistosomiasis medicine reaching schools, particularly those in last-mile deliveries to remote, rural locations, for example in Kenya.
* The contents of this chapter or section are voluntary and therefore not audited. However, our auditor has read the text critically.