Glaxo eyes token profit on malaria vaccine
New York, January 20, 2010
GlaxoSmithKline hopes to seek approval by 2012 for its experimental vaccine to prevent malaria and will seek only a small profit on the product in order to make it widely available in hard-hit countries, the company said.
"(Its) sales in dollars will be a very small number," Glaxo chief executive officer Andrew Witty said of the product during an interview with journalists in New York on Tuesday.
Glaxo will likely derive a "small 5 per cent return" on the product -- enough to help encourage other drugmakers to continue their own research against diseases in least developed countries that remain big killers, he said.
"We must ... ensure that we do not do anything which would discourage other companies from entering into this field," Witty said. "If we set a precedent of not-for-profit (pricing), we could discourage others from doing research into malaria or other neglected tropical diseases."
Witty said the vaccine, called Mosquirix, is expected in 2011 to complete late-stage trials involving 16,000 people. If proven safe and effective, and approved by regulators, it would be the first vaccine to protect against infection with mosquito-borne parasites that cause malaria in Africa and other developing regions.
Glaxo last year said it would grant researchers in developing countries access to 800 related patents and patent applications -- known as a 'patent pool' -- related to tropical diseases.
He said the company will likely be inclined at some point to also allow researchers access to patents involving possible treatments for HIV - the virus that causes AIDS, which has taken an especially heavy toll in Africa.
"We want to be part of constructive engagement to see if we can work through the details," Witty said, referring to a possible HIV-drug patent pool.
In the meantime, Witty said Glaxo has already granted eight voluntary licenses in Africa that allow others to produce generic forms of the company's HIV treatments without paying royalties to the London-based drugmaker.
"Last year, those people who took those licenses from us actually manufactured and delivered into least developed countries four times more product than we did," Witty said.
Witty spoke to reporters ahead of a planned speech on Wednesday to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. – Reuters