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In this regular feature on Breakthroughs, we highlight some of the most interesting reads in global health research from the past week.

June 27, 2022 by Anna Kovacevich

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Biotech companies Afrigen Biologics and Univercells on Tuesday announced a collaboration to pave the way for the development of the first African-owned COVID-19 vaccine through open-access intellectual property. The companies will focus on the development of a novel mRNA vaccine, using intellectual property from partners, with an emphasis on tackling two major challenges that have hindered COVID-19 vaccine rollout in Africa and other low- and middle-income countries: cold or super-cold chain requirements and a lack of local cost-effective production. The collaboration will be hosted in Cape Town, South Africa, by Afrigen, which also hosts the World Health Organization’s (WHO) global mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub, and the new agreement will build on expertise developed using the hub.

At last week’s Kigali Summit on Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), Novartis and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) each pledged to make significant new investments in research and development (R&D) for neglected diseases. Novartis committed $250 million over a period of five years to support work on malaria, Chagas disease, leishmaniasis, dengue fever, and cryptosporidiosis. The funding announcement was made as part of Novartis’ endorsement of the Kigali Declaration, a commitment to ending NTDs. GSK’s pledge—$1 billion over ten years—will be used to accelerate R&D of infectious diseases that disproportionately affect lower-income countries. This research will focus on new and disruptive vaccines and medicines to prevent and treat malaria, tuberculosis, HIV, NTDs, and antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

Development of new antibacterial treatments is inadequate to address the escalating threat of antibiotic resistance, according to an annual WHO pipeline report released Thursday. The report, which assesses antibacterial drugs in preclinical and clinical development, describes the pipeline as stagnant and far from meeting global needs. Since 2017, just 12 antibiotics have been approved, 10 of which belong to existing classes with established mechanisms of AMR—demonstrating a major gap in discovery of antibacterial treatments, especially innovative treatments. Urgent, concerted investments in R&D by governments and the private sector are needed to accelerate and expand the antibiotic pipeline, according to WHO, especially for products that can make an impact in low-resource settings, which are most affected by AMR.

About the author

Anna KovacevichGHTC

Anna Kovacevich is a senior program assistant at GHTC who supports GHTC's communications and member engagement activities.