Novartis spearheads innovative malaria research project in newly created public-private partnership

5/23/2006, 10:15 AM (Source: GlobeNewswire)
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* Alliance of NITD, Wellcome Trust, Economic Development Board of
Singapore and Medicines for Malaria Venture to jointly initiate
research on malaria

* Aiming to develop next generation of drugs to treat malaria -
estimated to kill over one million people and affect about 300
million to 500 million people annually

* Singapore-based NITD adds malaria to research focus in addition to
current programs for dengue fever and tuberculosis

Basel, May 23, 2006 - Dr. Daniel Vasella, Chairman and CEO of
Novartis, announced today that the Novartis Institute for Tropical
Diseases (NITD) will initiate research on malaria - estimated to
annually kill more than one million people worldwide and one of the
top three killer diseases in tropical countries - as part of a new
public-private partnership.

The partnership, which includes the NITD, the Wellcome Trust, the
Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) and Medicines for Malaria
Venture (MMV), will all allocate resources to discover the next
generation of malaria drugs.

Research at the Singapore-based NITD will focus on the development of
a one-dose cure for Plasmodium falciparum, the most dangerous form of
malaria, and a curative modality for Plasmodium vivax, the most
frequent and widely distributed cause of malaria.

Approximately USD 20 million in funding has been granted from the
Wellcome Trust, the EDB and MMV. The NITD will manage the program and
conduct research jointly with several institutions, including the
Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation (GNF) and the
Swiss Tropical Institute (STI).

"With 250 million people infected worldwide and more than one million
deaths each year, malaria is one of the most pressing global health
issues. This partnership will greatly increase our ability to fight
the disease," said Dr. Daniel Vasella, Chairman and CEO of Novartis.
"NITD brings together the best of industry and academic knowledge
along with technology and strong scientific networks. This funding
will allow us to utilize these capabilities in the fight against
malaria."

Expert advice, project oversight and strategic support will be
provided by the Wellcome Trust and Medicines for Malaria Venture.

"Malaria continues to kill millions of people around the world.
Public-private partnerships are an effective model for developing new
drugs for important but hitherto neglected diseases, such as malaria
and tuberculosis. This partnership brings together a new group of
funders to support an international consortium of researchers, from
the public and private sector, to develop new drugs for the fight
against malaria," said Dr. Mark Walport, Director of the Wellcome
Trust.

The NITD, which is expanding its focus on tropical diseases to
include malaria as well as dengue fever and tuberculosis, offers
unique capabilities and access to both external and internal research
networks. It was established in 2003 as a public-private partnership
between Novartis and the Singapore Economic Development Board.

"The NITD is an important member of Singapore's rapidly growing
biomedical sciences research community," said Mr Philip Yeo, Chairman
of Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR).
"We are delighted that NITD will be expanding its operations as part
of this collaboration. Singapore is pleased to support this
important endeavor to develop better treatments for malaria and
advance human healthcare around the world."

This new partnership will investigate the potential for development
of existing compounds that have already shown antimalarial activity,
and explore novel compounds. Partners will perform basic and applied
drug discovery research, including target identification, development
of screening assays, synthesis and the testing of drug candidates.

"It is innovative collaborations like this that will transform the
landscape of neglected diseases research," said Dr. Chris Hentschel,
President and CEO of MMV. "Only by working together and pooling our
talent and resources will we be able turn the tide against this
ancient scourge."

About malaria
Worldwide, experts estimate that there are between 300 and 500
million new cases of malaria each year, resulting in over one million
deaths annually, 90% of which occur in children in Africa. Malaria
morbidity and mortality rates are rising in developing countries,
largely due to the emergence of drug resistant parasites rendering
traditional antimalarial drugs, such as chloroquine and
sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP) ineffective.

In addition to the devastating toll malaria takes on human life in
terms of morbidity and mortality, the disease also has substantial
negative impacts on the economic development of nations in which the
disease is endemic. The drain on African economies alone is estimated
to be USD 12 billion each year (WHO, 2000) and the threat of malaria
can be a serious deterrent to tourism, further hampering economic
development and growth.

About Coartem
Coartem is a highly effective and well tolerated antimalarial
medicine that achieves cure rates of up to 95%, even in areas of
multi-drug resistance. It is indicated for the treatment of
falciparum malaria, the most dangerous form of malaria. Coartem is
the only pre-qualified, fixed-dose ACT combining artemether, an
artemisinin derivative, and lumefantrine. Under a public-private
partnership with the WHO formed in 2001, Novartis provides Coartem at
no profit for use in developing countries where malaria is endemic.

In 2005, Novartis delivered nine million treatment courses of the
anti-malarial medicine Coartem at cost for public-sector use by
patients in malaria-endemic countries. To meet demand, Novartis and
partners on three continents have scaled up manufacturing capacity to
make it possible to produce around 70 million treatment courses of
Coartem by the end of 2006.

Coartem was co-developed by Novartis in collaboration with Chinese
partners that also supply the active ingredients (artemether and
lumefantrine), and Novartis produces the product in China and the US.
Coartem is currently registered in 75 countries worldwide.
Artemisinin is a compound derived from the sweet wormwood plant. This
plant has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine to
treat fever. Studies have shown that using two or more drugs in
combination has the potential to delay the development of resistance
in areas of low transmission. Artemisinin-based combination therapies
in particular have been found to be highly effective in treating
malaria and their potential to delay resistance in areas of intense
transmission is under investigation.

About the Wellcome Trust
(www.wellcome.ac.uk)
The Wellcome Trust is the most diverse biomedical research charity in
the world, spending about £450 million every year both in the UK and
internationally to support and promote research that will improve the
health of humans and animals. The Trust was established under the
will of Sir Henry Wellcome, and is funded from a private endowment,
which is managed with long-term stability and growth in mind.

About the Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB)
(www.biomed-singapore.com)
The Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB) is the lead agency
that plans and executes strategies to develop Singapore as a
compelling global hub for business and investment. It enables
multinational and Singapore-based companies to establish
value-creating operations in both the manufacturing and
internationally tradable services sectors.

The EDB Biomedical Sciences Group (EDB BMSG) is responsible for the
development of the Biomedical Sciences industry. The BMS Group works
closely with A*STAR's Biomedical Research Council (BMRC), Bio*One
Capital and other agencies to develop human, intellectual, and
industrial capital in Singapore, in support of the Biomedical
Sciences industry. A*STAR's BMRC is the national body that is
responsible for developing the human capital to support, sustain and
stimulate public sector biomedical research and development
activities in Singapore while Bio*One Capital is a dedicated BMS
investment management company. Mr Philip Yeo, Chairman of A*STAR,
spearheads Singapore's BMS initiative and oversees all three groups.

About the Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV)
(www.mmv.org)
Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) is a non-profit organization
dedicated to reducing the burden of malaria in disease-endemic
countries by discovering, developing and delivering new affordable
antimalarial drugs through effective public-private partnership.
After six years of operation, MMV is managing the largest-ever
portfolio of malaria drug research with more than 20 projects in
different stages of drug research and development. MMV's goal is to
register at least one new antimalarial before 2010 and maintain a
sustainable pipeline of antimalarials to meet the needs of the 2.4
billion people at risk of this deadly disease.

About Novartis
Novartis AG (NYSE: NVS) is a world leader in offering medicines to
protect health, treat disease and improve well-being. Our goal is to
discover, develop and successfully market innovative products to
treat patients, ease suffering and enhance the quality of life.
Novartis is the only company with leadership positions in both
patented and generic pharmaceuticals. We are strengthening our
medicine-based portfolio, which is focused on strategic growth
platforms in innovation-driven pharmaceuticals, high-quality and
low-cost generics, human vaccines and leading self-medication OTC
brands. In 2005, the Group's businesses achieved net sales of USD
32.2 billion and net income of USD 6.1 billion. Approximately USD 4.8
billion was invested in R&D. Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland,
Novartis Group companies employ approximately 96,000 people and
operate in over 140 countries around the world. For more information,
please visit http://www.novartis.com.

In total, the Novartis access-to-medicines programs, valued at nearly
USD 700 million, benefited more than 6.5 million patients around the
world. These initiatives range from drug donation and research
programs to combat neglected diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis
and leprosy in developing nations to patient assistance programs that
help cancer patients receive the most innovative and effective
treatments.

# # #

Media contacts

Christine Elleboode-Zwaans
Novartis Global Media Relations
+41 61 324 3348 (direct)
+41 79 828 4718 (mobile)
christine.elleboode-zwaans@novartis.com

Katrina Nevin-Ridley
Media Relations, The Wellcome Trust
+44 20 7611 8540 (direct)
+44 7973 481 485 (mobile)
k.nevin-ridley@wellcome.ac.uk

Anna Wang
Public Affairs, MMV
+41 22 799 4078 (direct)
+41 79 204 2875 (mobile)
wanga@mmv.org

Sheo S Rai
Biomedical Sciences Group, Singapore Economic Development Board
+65 6395 7784 (direct)
sheo_shanker_rai@bmsg.gov.sg
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