Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany Furthers Commitment Towards Elimination of Schistosomiasis Through Public-Private Partnership

Geneva, April 18, 2017 – Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, a leading science and technology company, today announced it has formed a public-private partnership for the next three years with the Australian Institu

18 Apr 2017 | Geneva, Germany
  • Public-private partnership in Australia and the US is part of the company’s Global Health Institute portfolio
  • Goal is to develop new diagnostics to identify all schistosomiasis patients in need of treatment to reach elimination agenda
  • Company celebrates 10th partnership anniversary of the Praziquantel Donation Program with WHO

Geneva, April 18, 2017 – Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, a leading science and technology company, today announced it has formed a public-private partnership for the next three years with the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine (James Cook University, Queensland) and Baylor College of Medicine (Texas, USA) to strengthen the current work on diagnostic development in schistosomiasis. This furthers the company’s commitment to support the fight against the worm disease, the cornerstone of which effort is the Praziquantel Donation Program.

The donation program is a strong element of schistosomiasis elimination agenda but the company also recognizes the need to generate additional innovative tools and accelerate the path towards elimination of this neglected tropical disease. Therefore, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany has additionally recently committed to create a Global Health Institute with the goal to deliver integrated health solutions for vulnerable populations in the developing world suffering from infectious diseases, including schistosomiasis, malaria and bacterial infections. The public-private partnership is part of this initiative.

“As we celebrate the 10th partnership anniversary of the Praziquantel Donation Program, more than 100 million patients, primarily school-aged children, have been treated to date. But we want to go beyond donations,” said Belén Garijo, member of the Executive Board of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany and CEO Healthcare. “The development of new diagnostics together with other health solutions such as new treatments or tools to control transmission through public-private partnerships will help create a turning point for the elimination of schistosomiasis and other NTDs.”

The company’s Global Health Institute’s current portfolio includes, among others, the development of a pediatric formulation of praziquantel via a consortium to treat children younger than 6 years old, the screening of the company’s compound library through a dedicated schistosomiasis drug discovery platform, and the development of innovative schistosomiasis diagnostics in association with the current efforts of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The partnership attracted support from Austrade, the Australian Government’s investment promotion agency, which provided funding to the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine (AITHM) under the Australian Tropical Medicine Commercialization Grants Program to support the three-way collaboration. Through the public-private partnership, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany intends to identify new schistosomiasis biomarkers in order to develop new diagnostics essential to determine all schistosomiasis patients in need of treatment to reach its elimination agenda. The company will co-invest 200,000 $AUD per year for the duration of the partnership.

“The collaboration between AITHM, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany and Baylor College of Medicine on schistosomiasis is a leading example of Australian researchers working with international organizations to address issues of global health,” said Paul Field, Austrade’s Senior Investment Specialist. “We were delighted to award the grant to the AITHM team led by Prof. Alex Loukas and to facilitate this investment by the company into Australian research.”
To celebrate the 10th anniversary partnership of the Praziquantel Donation Program and to further raise awareness for schistosomiasis, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany is supporting the #MakingSchistory campaign of the Global Schistosomiasis Alliance. The campaign acknowledges the great steps taken in moving towards elimination of schistosomiasis, while recognizing the need for stronger concerted efforts to keep fighting this dreadful infection until it is wiped out. More information is available at www.MakingSchistory.com.

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