GUEST BLOG: Partnering for Global Health Forum 2008, Joana Lowell PhD MPH
How are breakthrough scientific discoveries translated into commercially available drugs, vaccines, diagnostics, or biomarkers? A key step in the creation of most new products is the formation of collaborations and partnerships between biotechnology companies, the pharmaceutical industry, and investors. In areas like oncology, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes, one critical avenue by which innovators connect to potential partners is via formal “partnering meetings.” At these events, companies have the opportunity to present their platforms and pipelines and expand their networks with the goal of ultimately inking a deal.
To date, those working on products for diseases without the potential for blockbuster financial returns – diseases such as African sleeping sickness, Chagas disease, hookworm, and lymphatic filariasis just to name a few – have been left out of the partnering frenzy because there hasn’t been a similar meeting format to support global health initiatives. The Partnering for Global Health Forum, to be held on March 11th and 12th, 2008, in Washington, D.C., aims to fill this void. Co-hosted by BIO Ventures for Global Health (BVGH), a non-profit organization working to harness the assets of the biotechnology industry to address neglected diseases of the developing world, and the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), and sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Forum will bring together “innovators” (companies, research institutes, and academic centers of excellence) who are actively seeking to expand into neglected tropical disease product development with “funders” (product development partnerships, investors, and foundations) in hope of catalyzing partnerships to build a new global health product pipeline.
Innovator presentations will include the Sabin Vaccine Institute (headed by Dr. Peter Hotez, editor-in-chief of PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases), the Seattle Biomedical Research Institute, and the Infectious Disease Research Institute as well as companies actively engaged in global health product development such as Intercell AG and GlaxoSmithKline. Funder presenters will feature the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Wellcome Trust, the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative, the Foundation for Innovative Diagnostics, and PATH. Prior to the start of the Forum, all registrants have the opportunity is to schedule 1-on-1 meetings with one another using BIO’s partnering system.
The Forum will also feature panels and talks on topics such as new incentives to draw industry investment in global health, lessons learned from existing partnerships, and innovation in the developing world. On March 12th, Senator Sam Brownback (R, Kansas) will deliver a keynote address on Priority Review Vouchers, a novel incentive included in last year’s FDA reauthorization act to attract industry initiative to global health. Additional confirmed speakers and panelists include Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Margaret McGlynn, president of Merck Vaccines and Infectious Diseases, and Dr. Solomon Nwaka, manager of genomics and discovery research at WHO/TDR.
To those interested in neglected tropical diseases, a major value of the Forum will be that many of the key players from multiple networks will all be in one place for two days of focused discussions. The Forum will also benefit from the diverse expertise of its sponsor and hosts: BVGH’s work to leverage industry’s assets and capabilities to address neglected tropical diseases; BIO’s extensive expertise running business development and partnering meetings; and the Gates Foundation’s deep knowledge of the health needs in developing countries.