Innovations for Child’s Health in Africa

Inclusive and sustainable development requires that urgent actions are taken to ensure health and well-being for all children.

Background

Healthy lives and well-being for all, including children, is the focus of one of the 17 United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), SDG 3, and integral to all dimensions of inclusive and sustainable development.  The global target is to end preventable deaths for newborns and for children under the age of 5 by 2030; specifically, SDG 3.3 aims to end epidemics for infectious diseases, including malaria and neglected tropical diseases, that are prevalent in the very young population in Africa.

Over 400 million children are currently living on the African continent – and the number is rising as the African population might double to 2.4 billion by 2050.  In 2018, an estimated 6.2 million African children and adolescents under the age of 15 years died, mostly from preventable causes. Of these deaths, 5.3 million occurred in the first 5 years.

Despite the progress made to reduce the global under-5 mortality rate, one child in the world still dies every five seconds. Children in sub-Saharan Africa are particularly affected; they are over 15 times more likely to die before the age of 5 than children in high income countries.

Beyond malnutrition, leading causes are notably preterm birth complications, pneumonia, birth asphyxia, diarrhea, and malaria. In addition, there are a number of diseases leading to accumulated morbidities impacting severely future healthy development such as neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), including schistosomiasis. This latter causes global morbidity in children and, if left untreated, can lead to potentially fatal chronic inflammation of vital organs.

Our Engagement for innovations

We are committed to advance global health and to use our scientific and technological innovations to improve the health of underserved populations in low- and middle-income countries.

Our Global Health strategy focuses on schistosomiasis and malaria that disproportionally impact these populations, especially children.

We recognize the importance of novel prevention and treatment modalities to address unmet medical needs for the young population. Our pipeline of projects focuses on the research and development of innovative health solutions suitable for children.

"We conduct research and development for innovative health solutions keeping in mind gender and age diversity to ensure future equitable and sustainable access to all. Children represent our future, and it is our duty as part of the Global Health community to address their needs.”

Béatrice Greco, Head of R&D and Access at the Global Health Institute, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany

Our R&D programs

Protecting Children through Prevention

Preventive care is essential to reduce the risk of diseases, disabilities and deaths. The Covid-19 pandemic demonstrated the importance of stopping the spread of infectious diseases through preventive measures.

This is why we are currently evaluating preventive interventions. In the schistosomiasis field, research for a next generation of chemopreventive drug is ongoing and an innovative sensitive diagnostic (e.g., a Rapid Diagnostic Test) is under development.
We also invest in new preventive approaches for malaria: advancing research for innovative drugs, including M5717, that has the potential to be suitable for preventing seasonal malaria infections in high risk areas; testing a new formulation technology for long-lasting protection of our insect repellent, IR3535®.
Interventions for access to clean water are also in scope as part of a holistic approach to prevention of infections.

New Treatment Options for Children

Together with a Consortium of partners, we have developed a potential new pediatric medication, small orally-dispersible tablet, to treat schistosomiasis in pre-school aged children as of 6 years of age and below – an age group that has so far been left untreated in public health programs primarily due to the lack of an appropriate child-friendly drug. The program acquired preclinical and clinical data for regulatory filing.  

M5717, an investigational antimalarial drug, has also the potential to be a promising treatment option, including for children. The program is now preparing for clinical Phase II as a combination therapy.  
In addition to this clinical program, our collaborative drug discovery activities are delivering promising candidates that are progressing into the preclinical stage.

In partnership with the World Health Organization, we provide up to 250 million tablets of praziquantel per year to treat schistosomiasis, mainly in school-aged children in sub-Saharan Africa. Since 2007, we have donated over 1.5 billion tablets and enabled the treatment of more than 600 million school-aged children in 47 countries. To support the goal to eliminating schistosomiasis, we have adopted an integrated approach which, beyond provision of medicines, includes research & development, health education as well as water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) initiatives for the benefits of children in endemic countries..

Learn more

Committed to contribute addressing unmet global health needs, we aim to improve sustainable access to high-quality health solutions for patients in low- and middle-income countries.

Learn more