The Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) has now been launched as an independent non-profit foundation based in Geneva. Established on the initiative of WHO over the past two years, it forms a partnership between a number of public sector agencies and the pharmaceutical industry and will continue to operate in close proximity to the UNDP/World Bank/WHO Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR). The process of establishing MMV is a clear example of how WHO has been able to create new activities in partnership with other organizations.
MMV's goal is to develop and manage a portfolio of drug discovery and development projects that will yield new antimalarial products. These products will be targeted for appropriate use and affordable access by disease-endemic countries. It is estimated that the venture will require US$ 30 million per year combined with donations in kind, other resources and expertise from industrial partners to succeed. Funding will be focused on a limited number of projects but at a level considered to be adequate to achieve conclusive results. The projects will be set up in such a way that partnerships will operate between pharmaceutical companies, academic groups and public sector agencies. Products generated through this collaboration will be contracted out to companies for manufacture and commercialization.
The first three discovery research projects have now been selected on a competitive basis and funding is available for work to start immediately. These will be developed through collaboration with major pharmaceutical companies — Glaxo Wellcome with a group based at the University of Bristol, SmithKline Beecham with a team from the University of California, San Francisco, and Hoffmann-La Roche with a consortium led by the University of Nebraska. The projects were selected from over 100 proposals from 27 countries. This has increased the level of pharmaceutical industry involvement in malaria research considerably. It is anticipated that with the establishment of MMV as an independent operation in its own right and the demonstrated commitment of the pharmaceutical industry to this process, further funding will become available. In this way, it is hoped that MMV will achieve its ultimate goal of registering and commercializing one new antimalarial product every five years and in assisting in the global effort to reduce the malaria disease burden.